“The Between”: A Brilliant Introduction to Science Fiction

“The Between” is a riveting science-fiction tale by Tananarive Due. I picked this novel up in a thrift store about two years ago for only $.80 and after finally reading it, I can say it was the best $.80 I’ve ever spent. It is a brilliant first novel by a woman who has drawn me into the sci-fi genre in a way that I never thought I’d be able to enjoy. I appreciate finding an author who can introduce me to a different style of writing to which I can relate so heavily.

“The Between” tells the story of Hilton James, a husband, father and director of a drug treatment facility in Florida. He is loved by his wife Dede, a newly-elected circuit judge in Dade County and the only black woman in that position, although they have had some rough times in the past. His children, eight year-old Jamil and thirteen year-old Kaya are bright kids and reflect the love and support that Hilton and Dede have showered upon them. Hilton is admired and respected by his friends and colleagues for going above and beyond the call of duty in his position at work. Seems as if he has the idyllic life that dreams are made of, right? But for Hilton, dreams are far from idyllic. They are haunting and menacing night terrors that are driving him to the very brink of insanity.

Hilton has been carrying a secret around deep within since he was a small child: he found his dear Nana, who had raised him since his mother ran off, dead on the kitchen floor when he was seven years-old…or did he? When he went to find help, he returned to find Nana singing hymns and cooking their dinner. From that day on, little Hilton was afraid of the woman he loved most in the world. He couldn’t understand how he could find Nana lifeless, clammy and cold to the touch on the floor one moment and in the next she’s up and about as usual.

Hilton did lose his Nana after she rescued him from drowning while on a family trip to the beach not long after she died in the kitchen the first time. She gave her life for his that fateful day in the ocean. He was adopted and raised by distant cousins, given all the love possible but he was haunted: The Dreams. The night terrors persisted even after he left home and went to college, met his future wife, began his career and started his life. They were finally alleviated through intensive therapy and hypnosis and lay dormant for five years. Five years of peace that suddenly comes to a screeching halt when Dede begins to receive threatening racist hate mail after winning her judgeship.

Hilton goes from a rational and well-respected man attempting to protect his home and family to a raging, sleep deprived maniac, unable to tell the difference between what is real and what is happening in his dreams. His wife and children fear him and his friends and co-workers think he is losing his mind. Hilton indeed hovers powerlessly in “The Between”.

This story is suspenseful, as it draws the reader in and forces you to accompany Hilton on his descent into madness. You as the reader also begin to question where the line between the natural and supernatural, between here and there, and between good and evil lie. With each turn of the page, I found myself asking “Where are WE going from here??” I got so spooked out reading this book at times, I had to put it down and take a few breaths.

Despite the ending of this book not being as explosive as I expected it to be, I would give this book a 5 out of 5 star rating. The characters were believable and attractive. The plot was well fleshed-out and the pace was deliberate and served its purpose as a suspense novel. Ms. Due definitely set the bar high for herself as a science-fiction writer with this debut novel. I look forward to reading more books by Tananarive Due as I delve deeper into the sci-fi genre.

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5 responses to ““The Between”: A Brilliant Introduction to Science Fiction

  1. This book was my introduction to Tananarive Due. I remember laying in bed with a day off from school, scared as hell reading this book. I was so happy to have found a black woman sci-fi author though. This book led me to her other work, and to other authors like Octavia Butler, who I would have never given a chance had I not been drawn in to that genre of fiction.

  2. That’s exactly how I was reading it, Suga. I basically read the entire book in one day because I couldn’t put it down. I found Octavia Butler first (I need to re-read some of her books), then found Ms.Due thanks you and Malca a couple of years ago. I really liked this book a lot.

  3. Ditto Nakia. The Between was my introduction to Due, followed by her short story in Gumbo (a collection of black short stories)–really loved that one. Sometime later, I fell in love with My Soul to Keep. Still have the sequel on my shelf…should be next up on the reading list.

    But what about Casanegra? I’m tempted to read it because Due’s hands are in it, but I didn’t care for a few of the things I’ve read by her husband Stephen Barnes. Hmmm… Thoughts?

  4. I read Casanegra and I can’t say that I liked it as much as Due’s other books. I blame that on Blair Underwood being part of the project though, and the particular series being in the mystery genre, not sci fi.

  5. I am not a big fan of reading science fiction, but I may swing by the library and pick up this book and give it the good ol’ college try and see if I can sink my teeth into this.

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