Book Review: Across The Universe
22/07/2011 Book Reviews

Across the Universe by Beth Revis (ISBN: 9781595143976)

Amy has left the life she loves for a world 300 years away

Trapped in space and frozen in time, Amy is bound for a new planet. But fifty years before she’s due to arrive, she is violently woken, the victim of an attempted murder. Now Amy’s lost on board and nothing makes sense – she’s never felt so alone.

Yet someone is waiting for her. He wants to protect her; and more if she’ll let him.

But who can she trust amidst the secrets and lies? A killer is out there – and Amy has nowhere to hide . . .

I find it so much harder to write a review when I like the book because really, all I want to say is, “Book good. Go read now.” But I suppose I should elaborate. I picked up Across the Universe and read it over the course of three days. I was so captivated with the story of Amy and Elder, that I couldn’t even stop reading for A Dance With Dragons. I got up and bought ADWD at 9am and then had to go back and finish Across the Universe before I could crack open Martin’s thousand page door stop, and I’ve been waiting six years for that book!

Across the Universe is Beth Revis’ first published novel – and the first in a planned trilogy – featuring the voyage of Godspeed, a generation ship, and in particular two of the inhabitants, Amy and Elder.
Amy was a fairly average teenager on Earth but now she has joined her parents (a military advisor and bio-specialist) and their group on a 300 year journey to colonise another world.
However, Amy’s journey doesn’t end as planned. Someone disconnects Amy from her life support set-up waking her up 50 years early and nearly killing her in the process. She is alarmed to find herself among a race of monoethnic men and women with very unusual, unnatural customs, some of which are quite hostile to anyone who is different.

Revis’ narrative jumps back and forth between Amy and Elder, a young man who was born and raised on Godspeed and being groomed to take over from the tyrannical Eldest. Many generations of ships caretakers have come and gone since a Plague wiped out three fourths of Godspeed’s population, and Time in regard to Godspeed’s history is kept deliberately sketchy. Elder struggles with his lessons in leadership and with the many secrets of Eldest, his mentor and leader. Elder has no knowledge of the frozen bodies on board Godspeed until a trip to the Recorder Hall and a talk with Orion leads him to a hidden basement level of the ship – and Amy

And so we have our heroine, lost and alone, confined to the artificial compound of Godspeed, the Earth she had known not only far away but presumably vastly changed. And we have our hero, destined leader, conflicted between his duties as the future Eldest and his curiosity and affinity for Amy.

I found the premise of this novel fascinating from the first. Fantasy is usually my nerd flavor of choice, but I like a good sci-fi romp once in a while. I admit, I was a little afraid that Across the Universe would turn into a sort of Twilight in Space, what with Amy and Elder and their instant attraction to each other, but this was happily not the case. I’ll gladly put Revis in with other recent YA authors I admire (such as Suzanne Collins, Libba Bray, and Patrick Ness) as the type that puts romance on the back burner for a more thought provoking adventure/mystery tale. Yeah, Amy and Elder like each other, but this fact is not the be-all-and-end-all of the book. In fact, I felt that Across the Universe was very much a Horror oriented space opera. Amy’s sense of confinement on Godspeed was enough to make my own chest feel tight with imagined claustrophobia. What would it be like to never feel the open air or see the sun again? To breath centuries of recycled air and drink centuries of recycled water? To know that any sense of darkness or light, rain, or wind, or drought came from a ship’s computer? To realize that any information you know, any sense of history is centuries out of date? Contemplating this is terrifying, and it’s a wonder Amy doesn’t go permanently insane. Revis shows us these moments of disconnect in Amy’s attempt to do the most mundane of tasks that we all take for granted. But then specifics leap out as Amy talks about Earth or as Elder attempts to teach her Earth’s history with severely altered versions of The Gettysburg Address or WWII. There is a surging sense of horror throughout Revis’ work, despite the occasional lighthearted moments, and this horror mounts as secret after secret is unveiled.

To say much more would spoil Across the Universe, and this is a book worth reading without spoilers. There are a few things that will seem obvious to the savvy reader from the very beginning: certain characters that know more than they should; certain secrets that just don’t seem right. And yeah, you’ll pick up on these not so subtle hints, but the out of place characters and strange secrets never resolve themselves the way you might expect. Revis is an excellent storyteller and even if you do figure out plot points early (the big bad seems fairly obvious early on), there are so many twists and turns from point A to point B for plot and characters alike that the journey is totally worth it even if you already know where you’re going.

So yeah, go out and pick up Across the Universe. The sequel, A Million Suns, will come out in early 2012 and I can’t wait. In conclusion, “Book good. Go read now.”

GS Rating: 4.5/5

GS Reviewer: Carey Gibbons

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