Monday, 13 April 2015

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Publisher: Razorbill
Pub Date: 11/01/2011
Genre: YA science fiction
Pages: 398
Rating: 3.5

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. 

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

I've been waiting to read this book for ages, after seeing Aylee recommend it over at Recovering Potter Addict years ago. This one I went into knowing it’s a trilogy, even though I’m so, so sick of series and trilogies in particular. I think it’s similar to downloadable content for gamers – I don’t want to pay extra just to finish the story. Of course, this depends – something like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games couldn’t really have been in one book, but a lot of YA books suffer from second-book syndrome, where nothing happens in the second book of the trilogy because it’s essentially just a placeholder.

Anyway, it remains to be seen whether that’s the case with the next two books of this trilogy, so I’ll just focus on the one I’ve actually read for now. That would probably help.


So, seventeen-year-old Amy’s parents are boarding a generation ship, which is heading on a 300-year interstellar voyage to Centauri-Earth for some reason. Her father is sixth-in-command of the military, and her mother is a bioengineer, so those two are essential for the mission. She decides to accompany them even though she’s “non-essential”, so is flash-frozen alongside them and put into the ship, Godspeed to sleep through the next 300 years.

But she’s woken up by an attempted murder 250 years later and defrosted. She can’t go back to sleep or she might never wake up, so she’s on the strange ship without anyone she knew. Only – surprise! – since this is a generation ship, there are (I think) 2,312 people living and reproducing there. She makes friends with the leader-in-training, Elder, and his friend and painter, Harley.

Then lots of shenanigans happen and many secrets are revealed.

The story is told in first-person, rotating between Elder and Amy every second chapter. It’s interesting to see their different perspectives, and the secrets they keep from each other.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Across the Universe. The world-building is very impressive, but still lacking in some ways (e.g. I still don’t know why the ship left Earth).

It’s way too YA-romantic, with insta-love and everything. I could’ve done without the romance.

Still, there’s an entire world inside that ship, and good explanations are offered for everything. The secrets are interesting, but only one of them made me physically react – maybe I wasn’t bonded enough to the characters. There’s a sense of the universe’s apathy, as sad things happen without reason. Also, if you’re sensitive about rape or suicide, you may want to give this one a miss. But that’s not really a spoiler, and the two topics are approached in unique ways that made them fascinating (though sad) to read about.

Themes of filial piety, destiny and coming of age are explored, all coalescing in the last couple of scenes. I’m having difficulty explaining why, but I felt like it was sort of Shakespearian, the climactic scene. I guess it makes sense, since the author is an English teacher. Just like with the last book I reviewed though (If I Stay) I was dissatisfied with the ending. I’m not as angry with this one as I was with the last one, because it was a lot longer so that cushions the fall, but the ending was still fairly open.

Also, THERE WERE NO PAGE NUMBERS. Now, this could just have been in my edition, but that makes me mad. How was I supposed to remember where I was if I left the book down? Hey, maybe it was a ploy to make the book unputdownable.

Still. I didn’t quite form attachments as deep as I would’ve liked to the characters, and it just feels like there was something lacking. But I will probably read the sequels, and I have to admit that it’s an impressive and imaginative book. 

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