Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

Reviewed by E B Heath

The past is never dead.   It’s not even the past.  William Faulkner

I can only think of good things to say about Helen Fisher’s debut novel Space Hopper.

This is a novel about faith, in whatever form it takes.  How faith interacts with human life – love, grief and hope.  How the past lives in our present and shapes the future.  The reader becomes privy to psychological insights and empathy for the human condition.  All of which are brilliantly illustrated as our protagonist, Faye, hurtles through a time space vortex!  This intriguing plotline requires a measure of concentration. I can truly say I never knew what was coming next.

The time space vortex device suggests that Space Hopper fits snuggly into a science fiction genre, confirmed by its publisher comparing it with the romantic science fiction novel The Time Traveler’s Wife.  However, Space Hopper is so much more than this.  Whereas the time travel aspect provides a mysterious element, the stand-out quality is its subtle inspirational message, and perhaps best not compared with other novels.

Fisher’s style is enviable. She increases the intimacy of writing in the first person by openly addressing the reader.  This inclusive approach draws the reader into the narrative.  The text is a light amusing read, peppered with witty similes: I searched my memory like it was a messy drawer; … lies are like toes; where there’s one, there are always more close by.  

The characters feel real; they are interesting and well drawn. Eddie, Faye’s husband, provides the romantic element, although, for my liking, portrayed as a tad too perfect.  Eddie was ‘in finance’ but has been ‘called’ and is training to be a vicar, even though this doesn’t quite account for his saint-like qualities. Louis, Faye’s blind colleague, is a most interesting character.  Through Louis, Fisher provides profound insights on blindness.   Close friends, Cassie and Clem are part of Faye’s past life, and conversations between them provide readers with Eddie and Faye’s romantic history.  Then there is Jeanie, Faye’s mother; here Fisher gives a good account of a typical, bit-of-a-hippy, single mum of the 1970s.  Space Hopper, an iconic English bouncy toy of the 1970s, or rather its packaging, a large box, is an integral part of the plot, so could be considered an inanimate character.  (In America, Space Hopper is known by another name; hence the novel released in the US is known as Faye Faraway.)

I am studiously avoiding any plot details, not wishing to even hint at the unfolding storylines of Fisher’s structure. Suffice to say there is plenty of action, along with spiritual, philosophical, and psychological insight, all of which slots seamlessly into the plot.  This is the most spellbinding novel I have read for sometime.  And I am a seasoned spotter of unforeseen twists and turns and outcomes.

It is surprising that Fisher had a difficult time getting Space Hopper published.  I cannot imagine why such a quality performance was not recognized immediately.  So big thank you to Simon & Schuster for bringing this new author to public attention.

A dazzling debut novel.

Space Hopper

[2021]

by Helen Fisher

Simon & Schuster (Australia)

ISBN: 9781471188671

Paperback: $29.99; 343pp

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