Across the Universe
by Beth Revis
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. Supposedly accidentally awoken 50 years too soon, Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone 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.
Amy: One of two alternating voices that told this story for us, the beginning of the book, where Amy is frozen and realizing that she'll be 'awake' the whole time, slipping in and out of nightmares and dreams... was the most terrifying part of her story for me. She was a nice enough, likable character... but once she woke up, she ceased to increase my interest in her. I still liked her... she was still an interesting voice... but I kind of wish her panic had been played up a bit more, especially in the sense of the claustrophobia of the place... and the 'recycled' stale feeling of everything.
Elder: The other main voice of the story, Elder's half, for me, was much more intresting than Amy's. He had lived there his entire life, so everything he was finding out was shattering his existing world, ripping apart what he felt was safe... not only that, but he was filled with a lust and longing for Amy that was far more powerful than anything she seemed to have felt for him. Overall, Elder just felt more real.
Eldest: The current leader of Godspeed... he was a bit terrifying in how he retold Earth's history to Elder, and a bit terrifying in how he expected to be obeyed... he also was keeping secrets, acting devious and trying to control everything.
The Doctor: I'm not really sure how I felt about this character, he was a bit wishy-washy. He was neck deep in the machinations of Eldest... and yet at the same time, he kept doing things to defy Eldest and ruin their setup... even though he seemingly agreed with them. He was a bizarre character, and for me, not too likable, despite his help.
Harley: Possibly my favorite character in this book. He is Elder's best friend, and a "mental patient" living in the hospital. What he truly is, though, is an artist and a kind soul. He helps Amy adapt and is possibly the most compassionate voice in this entire story.
Victria: Another "mental patient", she's a story teller, a bit bitter about life, and an avid reader.
Orion: A record keeper... the only one we ever meet, in fact, despite the fact that it seems like there should be more of them. Orion is mysteriously helpful in pointing out things for Elder to question
Luthe: Another "mental patient" and possibly the only one who really deserves to be locked up in a psych ward, Luthe is a predator... he gives off a creepy vibe the entire story.
Quality of Writing:
I read this book really quickly. The alternating view points from chapter to chapter help both to speed up reading and shorten chapters... I really love this style of storytelling.
Sad, terrifying, believable enough... but left me questioning how it would all play out. The most unbelievable part was the "mystery" aspect of the story.
Amy is frozen for a 300 year trip... and the book starts out with a bang when Amy overhears, as she's being frozen, that the trip has been delayed a year, so she'll be frozen for 301... the book begins with Amy trying to cry out to get her life back... then realizing she would have a certain level of consciousness for the entire 301 years.
Skip ahead in time and we begin to see things from Elder's point of view. He's a defiant youth who is destined to be the next leader of Godspeed, the ship that carries Amy and her family and the other frozen passengers to their new planet.
As he's finding out new things about his life on the ship, Amy is awoken and starts to confuse him even more with stories of Earth that he'd never heard before. On top of that, she is telling him things like "The mental patients aren't the crazy ones..." despite the fact that Elder has always been told he is, and had actually spent time living in the Hospital Ward.
She also points out how things like "The Season" are absolutely not normal... and begins Elder questioning whether or not the way the people around him act is natural or not.
At the same time, Orion, a record keeper, is pointing out things like hidden ship levels to Elder... and making him realize that Eldest is truly holding back the truth.
This story really has quite a lot of levels to it. It's complexity was, frankly, shocking and very warmly received. When I first heard about this book, I saw it described as "Avatar meets Titanic" and was immediately turned off to the idea of reading it. I was afraid this was going to be another sappy, stupid romance masquerading under the title Science Fiction. A Twilight of the future, if you will.
It was not that at all. Really, the only one I really felt romance from was Elder. He was obviously infatuated... but as far as relationship development went, I think Amy and Harley had more potential.
The "mystery" part of this story wasn't really very mysterious... and it wasn't entirely believable either. Especially since it was such a small environment, and certain characters (like Eldest) were such controlling busy-bodies.
That being said, this book was TRULY Science Fiction... not some namby-pamby romanced down version of it. I was actually shocked... no... blown-away by the fact that it really was a Science Fiction novel and not something vaguely resembling one. This is what made it amazing... because you can tell Revis really worked on, and considered the world she was putting these characters into. It made the book an enjoyable, fast read, and insured I'd be willing to pick up other books by Revis in the future. Not only that, but I was able to pass it on to my SciFi loving friends without feeling any shame, lol!
Believability of World:
The ship environment was both interesting and believable. The Feeders were terrifying... and the belief systems that people operated under were equally so. The only thing that fell apart for me in this world, believability-wise, was the 'mystery'. Otherwise it held together really well.
Overall Grade: A-