Across the Universe
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.
When young adults leave their hometown and go off to college it can feel like they have left the planet. All of a sudden they are in a whole new town with all new people, there are new rules of engagement and you are suddenly expected to act and think very differently. Worst of all many if not all their friends and family, most importantly the ever-present parents, are now gone and they are on their own. In Beth Revis’ science fiction debut Across the Universe she manages to capture all of this perfectly as we follow Amy and her journey aboard the spaceship Godspeed. Unfortunately it is captured too well and that along with a few other hiccups resulted in this book not turning out as well as I hoped it would.
Let me start this off on a positive note, Revis can write really, really detailed and realistic scenes. The book opens with Amy watching her parents be cryogenically frozen and then experience it herself. I have extreme needle phobia, it took forever to get through those pages. Even people who don’t have needle phobia squirm through that first chapter, it is intense and present and real and that kind of talent in a writer is extremely promising. She captures the small ship, the feeling of being trapped, the abandonment all very well and you experience it along with Amy and that is very powerful.
I am as silent as death. Do this: Go to your bedroom. Your nice, safe, warm bedroom that is not a glass coffin behind a morgue door. Lie down on your bed not made of ice. Stick your fingers in your ears. Do you hear that? The pulse of life from your heart, the slow in-and-out from your lungs? Even when you are silent, even when you block out all noise, your body is still a cacophony of life. Mine is not. It is the silence that drives me mad. The silence that drives the nightmares to me. Because what if I am dead? How can someone without a beating heart, without breathing lungs live like I do? I must be dead. And this is my greatest fear: After 301 years, when they pull my glass coffin from this morgue, and they let my body thaw like chicken meat on the kitchen counter, I will be just like I am now. I will spend all of eternity trapped in my dead body. There is nothing beyond this. I will be locked within myself forever. And I want to scream. I want to throw open my eyes wake up and not be alone with myself anymore, but I can’t. I can’t.”
Things go very wrong when Amy is woken up several decades too early. She discovers that the people awake on the ship have formed a dystopian society with more questions than answers. More frozen passengers are mysteriously being woken up and left to die in their melting ice. Amy is left with a mystery on her hands that she must solve before any more passengers are killed or before whoever tried to kill her comes back to finish the job. This is a mystery and a science fiction novel first and Revis gets the science right, she thinks through the ramifications of generations of humans living on the same small ship for 250 years and she even lays out the ship in a logical and smart way in respect to both the mystery and the science fiction.
That being said there were some problems though. The description is there, the unique plot ideas and premise is there, meanwhile the characterization, the plot pacing, the romance advertised heavily on the front cover was not. The mystery can be solved by the reader very early in the book. Many of the characters felt too true to trope and two-dimensional, like they weren’t even real people. The plot pacing was very, very slow. It took forever to get through the book and oftentimes the story seemed to be spinning its wheels. The romance between Amy and Elder seemed contrived and unrealistic, it lacked any sort of chemistry. Really the relationship took a back seat to the mystery that was front and center and that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you ignore the cover.
Focusing back on Amy, I have spoken before in reviews about YA authors that try so hard for the average teenage girl voice that they overcompensate. That happened here. Amy spent most of her time, on a space ship that she voluntarily signed up for, whining about being there. Yes, she was woken up early but most of the whine seemed to be about missing earth and sky and a boyfriend that had been dead for over 200 years by that point. She whined about missing her daddy and wanted to selfishly wake him up early even though the ship needed him at planet fall, whined about the people on the ship, and even got whiny and bratty with Eldest who had already told her he was willing to kick her off this ship since she threatened to disrupt things. It was annoying and I think more of teenagers than that. She was trapped, that I will admit. She was scared, that is fine. Her life was in danger, very much so. But address those concerns first, miss rain drops second.
I don’t really want to touch on the attempted rape scene except that it was horrible, unexpected, served next to no purpose and Amy was perfectly fine way too fast to be believable. Worst of all there was no ramifications for anyone, it was like it never happened. If you aren’t going to do the very thorny issue of attempted rape justice don’t include it in your book at all.
I’m really glad that a science fiction book for teens, and particularly teen girls, was not only written but then marketed so well. I do wish it lived up to that marketing a little better though. Dystopian fans will love the thought that went into the construction of the society in this book, science fiction fans will love the world building as far as the actual ship and the science behind many of the things that go on on-board are concerned. This is not really a romance though, there is only a dash of it and be ready for some very in-depth descriptions of some very horrifying scenes.
I received this book for free to review.