Most readers who pick up A World Between will know it’s about huge chunks of the Earth vanishing into nothingness. Beyond that idea, readers should come to the book with no expectations, no preconceptions whatsoever. For author Robert Herzog doesn’t tell a story that is predictable in either style or substance on any level.
For example, the book opens with several situations in Africa, China, and the U.S. where groups of witnesses encounter strange physical gaps in the world around them. Strangely, only these witnesses are aware of the phenomena. In particular, while one of the weird disappearances is of a beach about an hour from New York City, the press doesn’t seem to know about it. Law enforcement does, but isn’t too concerned. Another setting is one wall of the Grand Canyon gone into the void, but a congressional delegation is much more worried about skinny-dipping nudity on public park land than the loss of a canyon wall.
At first, there isn’t much urgency in the investigation into these disappearances, even though the UN takes jurisdiction as the situations are international in scope. The lady put in charge is Susan Corpora, a relief worker who has no science background whatsoever. For some time, she’s wrapped up in finding living space and a private computer headquarters in New York where she brings in physicist David Alta-force who, in turn, brings in colleague Driscol Sebastian for help. Another partner is police detective Sal Antifermo who has strong opinions about good wine.
For much of the book, we spend time with these four in their NYC apartment/computer lab where Susan runs reports over to the UN, sleeps with David and becomes his muse, and doesn’t do much else. Only once do they really take a field trip, in the most exciting scene in the book where their helicopter is nearly pulled into the Grand Canyon void. Mostly, Susan listens to David and Sebastian toss out concept after concept from theoretical physics as they try to figure out what’s going on. Some chapters, in fact, could be considered dramatized physics lectures on fractals, waves, and particles.
Herzog excels in two significant ways. First, he is gifted with descriptive writing, making all the settings, especially the streets and buildings of New York, vivid and clearly based on first-hand experience. Second, he is convincing when he describes the bureaucracy and the convoluted political processes that control the rather limited investigation into what you’ think would be addressed more like a crisis than a bizarre mystery or scientific riddle. It takes almost 100 pages for the scientists to dive into their computers in earnest, nearly a hundred more before they try any sort of experiment to probe a void. The final very philosophical third of the book is where the scope widens, deepens, and brings several plots to a head.
So A World Between is a low-key slow-burner with vivid characters who are multi-dimensional. The dialogue is mostly quite human in between the long speculative speeches about the make-up of the universe and what might account for lost pieces of our planet. No one is likely to anticipate the ending or the reasons for it all.
Certainly, there’s an audience for this breed of very “hard science” fiction, especially those with some background or knowledge of physics, analytical geometry, and other mathematical disciplines. If you’re into action-adventure, alien visitations, or explorations of dystopian futures, this isn’t a read for you. But it’s very worthwhile reading for those willing to let a cerebral story build and develop and go where human will, science, and suppressed emotions take us.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Oct. 13, 2016 at: