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11 December, 2013
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.
Before reading this review, you should know that I am not a fan of sci-fi in any form. In fact, I actually have a note about it in my review policy. So, even with all the hype surrounding this book, I wasn’t sure if it would be the one for me. Then I read the first chapter, which I found gripping and terrifying in equal measures, and was totally sold! In Across the Universe, Beth Revis employs evocative world building to create a truly terrifying future society which will leave you feeling claustrophobic and unsettled. Best of all, you don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy this one. Across the Universe contains dystopian elements and murder mystery which will keep even those hard-to-please readers entertained.
As Across the Universe opens, we are introduced to Amy and her parents who have signed up to be cryogenically frozen and transported three hundred years into the future. The way in which Revis describes the freezing process is meticulous and entirely fascinating. I could feel what Amy and her parents were feeling as they underwent the process, and I found the whole thing truly terrifying. For me, the first chapter of this book was one of the best I’ve read – it will suck readers in and get them immediately invested in the story and the characters. I read the first chapter a couple of months ago when it was released online, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. Unfortunately, for me, what happened next was a little disappointing.
The focus now switches to Elder, a sixteen year old boy on board the vast spaceship, Godspeed. Elder is a leader-in-waiting on board the very ship that Amy and her parents are now frozen cargo on. We have shifted 250 years into the future, when Amy is suddenly unplugged, unfrozen, and brought back to life. In essence, somebody has tried to murder Amy, and now the race is on to find out who that murderer is before he strikes again. Amy must adjust to her new life, while all the while protecting her still-frozen parents, and figuring out who she can trust in this strange new environment, where everybody looks the same and nobody betrays the orders of the dictatorial leader, Eldest.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that the story sounds pretty fast-moving and exciting, but in reality I found this one very slow to get going. The book is told in a dual narrative between Amy and Elder, and while this is a style that I sometimes enjoy, as it usually enables me to connect with characters, here it left me feeling a little detached from them. I felt that the story was a little disjointed in places due to the dual narrative. I also felt a little let down by the promised romance here. While it’s not always necessary, I am a fan of a romantic interest in books, and here, I didn’t find one. While the themes explored in this book are often mature, the romance between Amy and Elder never really takes off. I felt as though the characters never really got comfortable with themselves or with each other.
As for those mature themes in this book, Revis does not hold back. First of all, the subject of leadership and how it can be abused with devastating effects is explored. I found this and the exploration of leadership through time pretty fascinating. When you discover that Eldest admires Adolf Hitler as a leader, then you know there’s trouble ahead! Then, there’s the subject of sex. The mating season! Dude! Those scenes were Wild! There’s also an attempted rape here and the subject of incest is raised, as all the people on Godspeed are Monoethnic. That leads us to the subject of race, which is also a theme explored here, and an interesting one at that.
While this book was well written, and is a strong debut, I can’t say that I loved it. There were certainly parts I enjoyed, and it contains some good plot twists, but overall the characters didn’t work for me, I found the outcome of the murder mystery a little too predictable, and the ending left me unsatisfied. But on the upside, I think a lot of people will really enjoy this one. I also think that this is a book that will really appeal to a male readership. There are a lot of alpha males in this one, no soppy romance, a spaceship setting and plenty of action towards the end of the book, so if you have a guy in your life that’s a reluctant reader, this could be the book to get him interested!
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