May 18th, 2012

Across the Universe

by Beth Revis

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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.

(No, this is not this book’s current North American mass market cover. But I like it. :))

What would you do if our planet got so down in the dumps that our political leaders were willing to send cryogenically frozen people to a supposedly habitable planet 300 years away? Would you choose to give up the sky, or the snow, or the grass for a fleeting hope that could possibly betray you?

And if you did? What would happen if you bet all your cards on that one hope– only to be woken up 50 years early? If you sacrificed everything– everything— only to find not a new planet, but a metal cage, lying political leaders, and– this is the worst part– fake rain? What then?

Across the Universe isn’t just a book. It’s a question. The question is: “What if?” And the answer lies only in the pages of this novel.

Although the plot involves the mystery of a murder whose culprit was easily identifiable, I could not put Across the Universe down. When Beth Revis means science fiction, she means science fiction. There’s no aliens, there’s no super powers, there’s no inhumanly strong hot guys. Sure, there’s a spaceship– but this book’s science is not limited to that. Across the Universe‘s twists and turns made me gasp and think”Damn, I never would’ve thought of that.” And I’m a science geek.

Godspeed’s world is beautifully painted. Each member of its society, from the Shippers to the Feeders to the Greys, fascinated me. The forced utopia of this world eliminates all causes of discord; there is no difference, because the ship is mono-ethnic. There’s a strong political leader, because Godspeed is run by the Elder/Eldest notion, which is to say that the eldest member of each generation becomes its political leader. Never mind the fact that the the current political leader only holds the generations together by lies.

And what a righteous political leader Eldest is. But is he evil for lying to his people, if he believes that that is the only way to keep Godspeed peaceful?

Elder, Eldest’s heir, is not rebellious at all, as the book’s description would lead you to believe. Sure, he asks questions, and sure, he finds their answers– but that’s mostly to impress Amy.  I mean, he’s a great guy– he’s just not my favourite person. And his name is Elder. Elder. That really doesn’t help any warm, fuzzy feelings for him.

Amy, although whiny and childlike on surface, is a strong character. She adapts to her novel situation and refuses to accept Godspeed’s not-so-great societal situation without getting some answers beforehand. I loved the chapters from her point of view because she makes comparisons on the differences between life on Godspeed and life on Earth.  One of my favourite parts of Across the Universe involves Amy and Elder discussing an important historical document, and Elder having all of its facts wrong. It really makes you wonder about the biases of our history textbooks, and how much we really know…

Another one of my favourite characters is Harley, Elder’s best friend. Harley is an artist, he’s open-minded, and he’s sarcastic. *Sigh* That is such a great combination.

Of course, Harley isn’t Across the Universe‘s romantic lead. Elder is. And as much as it pains me to say it, I quite enjoyed the romantic plot. Unlike the book’s cover would lead you to believe, Across the Universe is not a hot and heavy romance– it’s not a spray tan. It’s natural (for the most part). It’s slow, and sweet, and realistic. It’s unsatisfying in the way that the ending of this book does not grace you with pretty little details, but beckons you to read the sequel. This romance is absolutely lovely. (Although it would have been better with Harley.  I’m just saying.)

Across the Universe has a split point of view, switching between chapters from Amy’s and Elder’s perspective. Despite the fact that this is a difficult task for an author, Revis accomplishes it masterfully. Even those of you who do not typically appreciate split points of view will agree that it is beautiful and necessary.

As I mentioned before, the mysterious murderer wasn’t mysterious in the least. I identified his identity within the first few chapters. But this is basically this book’s only negative point.

Oh, and I want to show you an exert from a chapter from Elder’s point of view. It’s the epitome of one of this book’s underlying messages.

“That’s not the sun there, it’s an internal confinement fusion container, a solar lamp providing both light and warmth to the Feeder Level, as well as the fuel for the ships’s internal function. It flashes once–warning us that the night is approaching– and then the tinted shield slides over the container. The world is dark now. We call it sunset, a word leftover from Sol-Earth, but this sunset is nothing more than turning off the light. There is no red-yellow-orange-gold in this sunset.”

Across the Universe merits 4.8/5 stars. For fans of science-fiction, sarcastic artists, and questions. Not for fans who can’t cope with the science behind *ahem* hormones.

I’ll keep you posted,

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