Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: Science fiction, dystopian fiction
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Daddy said, “Let Mom go first.”

Amy has given up everything: her school, her friends, her boyfriend, her planet. Along with her mother and father, Amy has been cryogenically frozen and placed aboard a starship headed for New Earth. She will be wake up on her new home planet in 300 years. Only something has gone wrong, and Amy has been awakened 50 years too early. She finds herself in the midst of a society nothing like the one she left behind on Earth. Individuality is seen as a source of discord; Earth’s history has been rewritten; the people are eerily compliant; and the leader, Eldest, controls the people with secrecy and fear.

Elder, the teenage boy being trained to take over leadership duties from Eldest, is intrigued by Amy – her differences, her spirit. As he tries to find out who opened Amy’s cryo container, he begins to question the things he’s been taught about his world, the things Eldest has told him. What kind of leader will he be? And will there be anything left to lead?

Across the Universe had been getting some really good buzz around the book blogosphere when I decided to add it to an Amazon GC order. I am a science fiction fangirl – have been since college – and I also love dystopian fiction. This book takes the best things of both genres and the result is an excellent novel about a possible future, one in which humankind has been forced to look beyond their home planet for their survival.

The society that exists aboard Godspeed, the ship Amy finds herself on, has many similarities to the one found in Huxley’s Brave New World. Genetic engineering has become the norm. Sex has become devalued to the point that the humans on board the ship have a “mating season” just like animals. Individuality is rejected. Eldest, one in a long line of leaders of Godspeed, believes that these things are absolutely necessary to maintain order and ensure the survival of the ship and its inhabitants until they reach their destination. But is there a price too high to pay for the survival of the human race?

Enter Amy. Amy is like a square peg in a round hole. While all of the citizens of Godspeed have become monoethnic, having the same almond eyes and brown skin, Amy is a very pale girl with fiery red hair. She went to sleep in a world where individuality was the norm, where races strove to exist together in harmony while still embracing their differences, where family is important and the elderly are to be honored. She is thrust into a society where a person is only valuable if they are useful to the operation and survival of the ship, where any creativity is viewed as insanity, where the people’s emotions have been muted into a joyless apathy.

The relationship that unfolds between Elder and Amy is crucial to Elder’s discovery of the truth behind Eldest’s rule of the ship. He was already questioning what he had been told as gospel truth, but meeting Amy exposed him to the idea that differences aren’t evil, but something to be cherished and valued.

Revis has crafted a riveting story, one full of characters who completely engaged the full spectrum of my emotions: hatred and revulsion at Eldest and Doc; humorous affection for the artist Harley; compassion for Amy and Elder. The ship Godspeed is in some ways its own character, and is drawn so well by Revis’ words that I could almost imagine myself riding a grav tube or running through the garden with Amy.

Across the Universe works as a stand-alone novel, but I was very pleased to discover on the author’s web site that it is the first book in a planned trilogy. I will be first in line for book two.

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19 Responses to Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

  1. Coffee and a Book Chick
    Twitter: coffeebookchick
    says:

    I loved this book as well, so glad you enjoyed it! I’m definitely going to be standing in line for the second book also!

  2. Misha Mathew says:

    I am not a big fan of science fiction, but I bought this book because I was so curious to know what all the hype was about (also, the cover is gorgeous! šŸ˜€ ). I’m glad to see the 5/5 stars rating. I can’t wait to read it, especially since you mentioned the similarity to Brave New World.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Misha – not only is the cover gorgeous, it’s reversible, with a schematic of the ship on the inside!

  3. Vasilly
    Twitter: Vasilly
    says:

    I just checked this out on audio! Now I really need to listen to it. Great review, Carrie.

  4. Melissa says:

    Another one to add to my already too long TBR list. I need to find a job reading all day!

  5. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – June 5, 2011 (the “May reading wrap-up” edition) | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  6. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    I’ve been interested in this book ever since I heard the author read a short passage last fall. I’m so glad to see it’s good.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – so cool that you got to see the author! I wish I knew how long we had to wait for book two…

  7. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna
    says:

    I totally agree this book was a mix of sci-fi and dystopian, which I loved. The book was really enjoyable – I’m waiting for book 2 as well!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Swapna -the only downside to discovering a series this good is when you have to wait in between books!

  8. ibeeeg says:

    Sci-fi is tricky for me to read. Some I have liked but many have bombed out. I think when they become to sciencey and plot driven my eyes then glass over. I like character driven books and this one sounds like it may be just that. I have been very interested in reading this book well before it was released but hesitated. I think I should shove that hesitation aside and read it; maybe this summer. On the list it goes. Thanks Carrier for the renewing my interest in this book.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Ibeeg – this one is definitely character-driven – with a mystery thrown in, and not too sciencey at all. šŸ™‚

  9. Megan @Amethyst Daydreams says:

    Great review!! A Million Suns (book two) should be out in about January or February of 2012, I believe. there is no date set just that it should be out about a year from when AtU came out. šŸ™‚

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