Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: Science fiction, dystopian fiction
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.