Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
Format: ARC, 398 pages
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Other books in the series: 1st in a trilogy
How I Got It: free ARC for review from Library Thing
Summary from back of ARC:
Read the astonishing story of love and murder and madness aboard an enormous space ship bound for the future.Amy and her parents are cryogenically frozen passengers aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. They have been led to believe they will wake up on a new planet, 300 years in the future.But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy is mysteriously unplugged from her cryo chamber, the near-victim of an attempted murder. Amy discovers an enclosed world where nothing makes sense, where Godspeeds passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.Amy and Elder are instantly bonded. But can they trust each other? All AMy and Elder know is that they must discover Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke Amy tires to kill again.
This will be very hard to write about without including what some might consider teeny tiny spoilers. If this is a concern, scroll down to "Verdict".**********************************************
"This whole ship has been held together with metal and lies, everyone either decieved or deceiver."
The story opens with Amy and her parents getting ready to be cryogenically frozen. This is not a pleasant process and Revis' stark description sucks you right in. Amy's father gives her the chance to remain with her her aunt and uncle while her parents leave for the 300 year voyage. While Amy desperately wants to keep her life on Earth, as well as her boyfriend, she opts to stay with her family. The next chapter brings us to the future and Elder. It's through him that we are introduced to life on Godspeed, see some of the challenges (the complete lack of privacy) and start to get an idea that things are a bit... off.
Through alternating points of view, we see Amy and Elder's growing fear, confusion, and anger. Amy has awoken early and traumatically. There is no place for her on Godspeed and things seem so wrong. Elder is supposed to be the future leader of the ship, but Eldest chooses to belittle him instead of teach him. Elder, as the only person on the entire ship his age, is frustrated, lonely, and scared that he will inherit a huge responsibility that he will be unprepared for. Amy represents so much hope for him.
"I saw her lying there, frozen in her glass box. And she was different. Really different. I could never have the sunset of Sol-Earth, but it was all there, in her hair, floating immobilized in ice, pale skin like lamb's wool. And young. Like me.
I went down there... to stare and dream. To think of what she could tell me of Sol-Earth. To think of how she - unlike every other person on this frexing ship - she would be my age during my Season.
And I wouldn't have to be alone."
He knows that Eldest is keeping a few secrets, but they begin to multiply as Amy points out oddities in Godspeed's residents and reality. And then someone starts killing the people in cryo. Fearing for her parents, Amy galvanizes Elder into action, setting off a chain of events that will change the fate of Godspeed.
As I stated in an IMM post that I wasn't really excited about Across The Universe. In fact, I was ambivalent about it. Then I got the ARC and felt I had to read it, and I'm so glad I did. This is a science fiction/dystopian book, with a little bit of romance and a murder mystery thrown in. Sounds like its got a lot going on, but it flows quite nicely. Revis has created an entirely self-contained society that has one goal - get to Alpha Centauri-Earth and start the colony. The entire voyage has been spent conducting farming experiments and making scientific breakthroughs to help prepare the colonists, and those in cryo, for life on a new planet full of unknowns.
I felt the world building was done very well. The science is explained nicely, nothing gets too tedious or complicated. The Godspeed is an enclosed society, and developed it's own customs and language. It was a great touch that Amy couldn't immediately understand the English spoken aboard the ship. I love the fact that the ship has no windows to space, creating an increasingly claustrophobic setting. Revis doesn't beat you over the head with What's Gone Wrong. You begin to realize, like Amy does, that things are a bit skewed and then you see it's all been horribly twisted. Since the reader has the benefit of both Amy and Elder's PoV, we understand faster that residents of the Godspeed are no longer 'people'. They have become their job and this compartmentalizing attitude has affected everything. The ship's mandate is to get the colonists and the "frozens" to the planet, and it is being done in the most efficient way possible.
And then there are the secrets. Why are the people in the psych ward the most normal? What do you mean life expectancy has shrunk to 60 years? How is it possible for Elder to be the youngest person on the ship at the age of 17? What was the Plague? What the devil is going on with the fourth floor?! I've read a review or two that felt that the secrets had been built up oo much and the big reveal wasn't that big of deal. The secrets do build up, almost every plot turn ends in A Secret. But I don't think the reveals were a let down. The secrets started out small, but on a ship where there is little to no privacy, it got harder and harder to keep a secret. So the methods of hiding truths become more elaborate, then they too become secrets, to the point where so many little secrets have turned into one teetering point that their entire way of life rests on.
I liked the supporting characters, no one was one-dimensional. The "bad guys" aren't completely bad, even Elder can see why things were done the way they were. Eldest, in his attempt to hold the people together and complete the ship's mission, became the discord he feared. Eldest ignored Elder to an extent, and that actually helped the boy become his own man. He had the chance to form his own ideas, to really think about the world around him, and it saved him in the end.
"Something roars in protest inside me. This is not the kind of leader I want to learn to be - one so coldly indifferent to Amy. Yesterday, Eldest told me that it was my job to protect the people. I didn't know he just meant our people."
The entire time we know Amy, she is in a place of anger, fear, and change. She's angry that she had to leave her life on Earth, angry that she was woken up 50 years early, angry that she has no place on Godspeed. But despite her confusion and feelings of uselessness, she was trying to make the best of it. She was a normal teenager trying to find her place in a radically different life.
"There is too much about this ship I don't know. That will be what I do first: find others, learn about this ship, and figure out what to do to protect my parents from whoever unplugged me. Because even though I want them more than anything right now, I don't want them to wake up cold, alone, and drowning under glass."
Amy and Elder go through some pretty traumatizing events, there lives are turned upside down, so they do bond. It's not totally romantic (it's too new, Amy is confused, and Elder is having these feelings for the first time) but it's realistic. They are friends who think they want to be more, and while some truths damage them, there is still hope.
I really enjoyed the alternating PoVs, we learned so much from Amy and Elder, and the best part was their emotion. While I felt that Revis sometimes skimmed along the top of her characters' emotions, when she dipped deeper, you felt how desperate, lonely, angry, and lost Amy and Elder were. You really felt how suffocating and claustrophobic life on the Godspeed was. The weather is pre-programmed, breeding is pre-programmed. Everything about life on board is confined, organized, and scheduled. There is no sunrise or sunset, because there is no sun, only a lamp. There is no breeze, no true rain, and no seasons. There is no horizon or sky, just the cold gray sweep of the ship's walls. Nothing is endless except for the journey.
There was one event that occurred with Amy that seemed to be swept aside in the course of the story. Yes, there was a brief impact on her character, but I think Amy had to either process the trauma or save her parents, and she chose her parents. In order for this not to become a convenient plot device, I would hope that Revis deals with this in the next book. (I'm sorry to be so horribly ambiguous, but I'm trying very hard not to be spoiler-y.) I also liked the Snow White imagery that was sprinkled into the story.
There was not a traditional HEA, but I was happy with the ending even before I found out that it was part of a trilogy. All in all, I am looking forward to the second book in the trilogy.
Across the Universe had me at page 1, literally. This is a great book for those who aren't into science fiction. The science is explained well but doesn't overwhelm the story. The characters, story flow, and plot were enjoyable. And honestly, I wasn't able to anticipate a lot of the events. While I felt that Revis could have done more with her characters' emotions (sometimes it really captured you, sometimes it didn't) I was pleasantly surprised by Across The Universe. With great world building, nice imagery, and a fast pace, this book is an enjoyable read. I would recommend not going into it expecting it to the "next big thing", don't try to make it live up to giant expectations. Instead, go into expecting a good story and that's what you'll get (if not more).
I'm giving Across The Universe 5 out of 6 stars, I think you should go out and read it.
Related Links and Reviews:
Mundie Moms review
Read the first chapter here.
ATU website can be found here.