Thursday, December 23, 2010
Page Count: 400 (hardcover)
Published: January 11th, 2011 by Razorbill
Recommended for: absolutely anyone, even readers who don't normally like sci-fi
*Disclaimer: Review copy provided by Penguin in exchange for honest review-- thanks*
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.
Across the Universe is an immediately engrossing, all-consuming debut novel which had me scrambling to keep it with me at all times whilst I was voraciously devouring the story. This clingy-ness led to awkward situations in which I was discovered smuggling the book along in the pocket of my jacket or in a tiny travel bag alongside a toothbrush, but I do not regret it for a moment. There are many YA books, there are many science fiction books, dystopia books, and even a fair amount of books which take place aboard a spaceship (to say nothing of certain cult television series). But none of those ships are as enormously complex and intricate as the bizarre society to be found aboard the spaceship Godspeed; and very few of the books populating the rapidly-expanding YA fantasy and science fiction shelves of bookstores are as intriguing, fantastical, and altogether amazing as Across the Universe.
Normally I tend to gravitate towards character-driven books. This novel is primarily plot-driven, and world-driven, given the genius of Beth Revis's Godspeed setting, but I loved the characters, too. The story is told from alternating points of view, that of Elder-- the young leader-to-be of Godspeed who feels conflicted and suspicious of whatever secrets his mentor Eldest isn't telling him; and Amy, a teenage girl who long ago chose to be frozen for the next three hundred and one years in the hull of Godspeed with her parents, and in doing so left her life and love on Earth behind forever. The premise of the sacrifice that Amy has had to make-- literally leaving everything behind on Earth to colonize an unknown planet-- is a great one. The dreams and memories and worries that Amy experiences while between the realm of living and death give her, as well as the book, depth beyond that of a dystopian love story aboard a spaceship bound for a new planet.
Amy and the other passengers are caught in a sort of coma-like sleep, except that her heart isn't even beating, she isn't breathing. Across the Universe kept me thinking and puzzling over the possibilities of a not-so-distant future long after I finished the book: how many people might choose to become frozen cargo aboard a ship like Amy's in order to wake up hundreds of years later, if such a thing was possible? Would it be worth leaving your life on Earth behind, and what would you do if you were suddenly wrested from your long, long sleep into a bizarre and foreign society where you were considered an outsider at best, and a freak at worst? I absolutely had to ask everyone I know, though I received quite a few odd stares in reply. (Must have been something to do with the way I kept waving the book under their noses and loudly reading passages from its pages in the check-out line of a holiday-crowded mall.)
I feel Amy's incredible dilemma-- that of literally being stuck between the Earth she knew and the new world, Centauri Earth with no end of the journey in sight-- is one of the most captivating to be found in a YA novel-- or any novel-- for a long time. I could go on and on about this book-- about how I loved the way the story unfolds, and the complexities and details of Godspeed's inhabitants' lives, and just literally everything, even the painful (though delicious) cliffhanger ending. I just discovered that Across the Universe is the first book of a new trilogy, and the prospect of reading more of Beth Revis's fantastical, brilliantly-constructed world and beautifully-realized tale is an exciting one to say the least. I simply cannot recommend this book enough.