Saturday, March 3, 2012

review: Across the Universe

Title by Author: Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Series (if applicable): Across the Universe #1
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: January 2011
Page Count:  398
Source: Library Overdrive Account
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.

My Review:
Across the Universe is a book with many layers.  It is a story of two young people, a story of a great voyage, a story about society, a story about leaders.  It is also a story about mystery, manipulation and murder.  The many facets of Across the Universe make this story a gem.

Amy is ‘Nonessential Cargo’ on the spaceship Godspeed which is flying to a future Earth some 300 years away from our Earth.  The only reason she was part of this expedition was due to the fact that both of her parents were chosen to go to help start life on a new planet.  She was even given the option to stay on Sol-Earth (our Earth), but even after witnessing the painful cryogenic freezing that her parents went through, she decided to take the journey, as they were family.
Fast-forward several years to Godspeed and the people that were on it.  There is one leader for two thousand people, and he is training his replacement, but he doesn’t give the young Elder all of the information.  Elder learns of another level of the ship from the record keeper and goes to investigate.  There he finds the cryos – those frozen on Earth.  Elder had no idea that Godspeed was transporting 100 people who have been frozen for over 250 years.  Then, everything changes when one of the cryos has been taken offline.  Luckily, the Doctor and Elder find box 42 in time, before Amy drowns in the defrosted cryogenic liquid.

Amy is having a hard time dealing with the reality of her situation, the reality that she was awakened 50 years too early.  Elder is having a difficult time learning the correct answers from Eldest, the current leader.  Together they start to uncover many secrets, all the while trying to find out who has been sabotaging some of the other frozen people from Earth.  One is able to be refrozen, two others were not so lucky.

The story is written at a pace that keeps the reader completely engrossed in wanting to read just a little bit more to find out what is happening, how the story will unfold.  The characters are very well written, and they all have completely different personalities and situations that they face.  It is interesting how the story is written in alternate chapters between Amy and Elder, the point of view from each of these characters in the first person, so the reader starts to learn more of their take on the situation, as well as their thoughts and emotions.  I think that this is part of the hook that keeps the reader engaged.

The mystery of who is murdering people also carries the story along.  Who would want to do it, and what is the link between all of those that have had their cryo tube deactivated?  Hints are made and it was quickly seen as to the link, and I had my suspicions on who was doing it early on.  What was more fascinating was the character twists of some of the characters themselves that kept you guessing.

What I found most striking about the book were the various comments on society and leadership.  All of the inhabitants of Godspeed were ‘monoethnic’ – meaning that they all looked the same so that there were no differences.  All of the inhabitants had darker skin, brown hair and brown eyes.  This is supposedly one of the three pillars to ruling, according to Eldest.  Differences will cause strife, and Eldest was very worried that Amy, with her red hair, freckles and green eyes would cause a disturbance because she was different. 

Population control in several different ways was another aspect of this book.  Not only the people blindly following their leader, Eldest, but also controlled generations which were only allowed to happen every twenty years.  The more Elder learned what was going on onboard the space ship, the more he started to think for himself and tried to determine what type of leader he wanted to be.  Amy was a catalyst for some of this, she helped Elder to see what was wrong and brought some of her Earth sense along with her, to set Elder on the right path.

This story could almost be a stand-alone story, but I am glad that the story continues and I am very much looking forward to reading ‘A Million Stars.’  Things on Godspeed change so quickly and radically at the end of the story that you are curious as to what will happen next.  How will Elder rule the people now that things have changed?  Will he stay true to the course he set out on?  Will he revert to the ways of those before him in order to control the populace on the spacecraft?  Many more mysteries and questions are before us, and it will be even more interesting to see how the inhabitants of Godspeed are dealt with, as well as the various problems onboard.

This book is intended for a young adult audience (adult being key, as there is sexual content), but there is great world-building in this, and many social and political issues that abound that make this adult reader glad to have read this book.  How does a good leader rule?  How does he control his populace, and what rights do people have, especially on a very confined ship in the middle of space?  All excellent questions that are looked at in this story.

Favorite Quotes:
And this is my greatest fear: After 301 years, when they pull my glass coffin from this morgue, and they let me body thaw like chicken meat on the kitchen counter, I will be just like I am not.  I will spend all of eternity trapped in my dead body.  There is nothing beyond this.  I will be locked within myself forever.

I stare at him.  I don’t know what’s going on, but everything is twisted here.  The normal people are “insane,” while the ones who’ve lost any capacity for real thought are “normal.”

Rating:  4 stars
Tag: Futuristic, Sci-Fi, Societal control, politics, murder, mystery, discovery
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