Cally Black’s In The Dark Spaces is an immersive sci-fi thriller that features some incredible aliens and insightful thoughts on human nature. While it’s full of action and danger, the heart of the story revolves around family, morality, communication, and love in all its forms. Exposition is scarce, but this works in the book’s favour. At first, it’s difficult to work out what’s going on, but by the time the aliens show up, the reader is working things out at the same time that the protagonist is. Unlike most sci-fi, these aliens don’t speak English for simplicity’s sake. Their language is made up of whistles and other bird-like sounds, and not all of their words have a direct translation. Black has carefully crafted her novel to create an intelligent species that is different from humans in their culture and values, yet are still believable as aliens. The novel creates a rich and immersive world that feels familiar and foreign all at once.In The Dark Spaces has as much capacity to shock as it does to warm hearts. The violence and terror that Tamara experiences only makes her moments of tenderness even stronger. As a young girl living a life of secrecy and risk, the only thing that ties her to the world is her family. Her love for her blood family is what keeps her alive, but finding new families amongst aliens and humans alike force her to make difficult decisions that make us question what we think we know about wrong and right. Tamara’s passion and loyalty drive this pulse-quickening novel, her need to survive overpowered by her need to save her loved ones. She isn’t an endlessly optimistic protagonist – she doesn’t see the good in everyone, but if good presents itself to her, she will stand by it. In The Dark Spaces poses deeply provoking questions about where our allegiances lie and how we treat people who act differently to us. It challenges the selfishness of human nature but also shows humanity’s depth of compassion and the curiosity that helps us understand others.