Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: YA, science fiction, dystopia

Publisher: Razorbill
Publishing Date: January 11th 2011
Hardcover; 398 pages

Stand Alone or series: Book 1 in planned trilogy

Summary:
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.
Review:

As the planet has been overrun with corporate greed, a small group of highly trained individuals have decided to travel to a new planet with hopes of finding more resources and a new place to colonize. Unfortunately, the planet is 300 years away and the passengers must be cryogenically frozen in order to survive the trip. Both of Amy's parents are part of this new group of explorers and Amy has to come to terms with leaving everyone she loves behind. Torn between leaving her friends and loved ones or seeing the new world with her parents, Amy ultimately decides to join the future colonists on the spaceship Godspeed. As she dreams never ending dreams, Amy is suddenly awoken after her cryochamber has been damaged drowning in her own cryo-liquid. Luckily a strange boy named Elder, the future leader of the ship, is there to save her and thus begins a strange new adventure.

As you might guess, I've left a lot of the plot out. Godspeed is crewed by group of people charged with ensuring the ship runs properly and makes it to the planet dubbed 'Centauri-Earth.' Since the trip will take many generations, the crew is surprisingly large and the crew has had to make a lot of changes in order to ensure their survival. Even though the summary makes this story sound like a murder mystery in space, Across the Universe felt more like a criticism of communism to be honest. Understanding why the people crewing the ship live the way they do is one the biggest part of the book and I don't want to give too much away.

Ultimately my biggest problem with this story is the flatness of it I guess. I never felt...anything really. I never felt like there was any immediacy to the story. Even though Revis makes it abundantly clear that Amy is in danger, I never genuinely felt that fear because I knew that everything would work out okay. The thing that got to me the most was when Amy was attacked, but this is exactly the type of cheap ploy that makes me avoid books with rape (though just to be clear Amy wasn't raped). It's basically laziness on the author's part. Beyond that though, I never really cared about Amy or Elder. Whether that's just me or the book is up for debate, but how can I love a book when I feel indifference? The answer is I can't.

I also wasn't shocked or horrified by any of the actions on the ship. Yes, the idea of giving people "mating seasons" to procreate was...uncomfortable, but I wasn't really appalled by anything. Maybe I've read too many dystopias, but this book just lacked something. This is why I say there's a flatness about this story. The romance aspect was also strange. Amy just woke up from being asleep for 250 years (and yet her muscles work perfectly?). When she was frozen she was in love with her boyfriend and yet we're supposed to believe she changes her mind in a matter of days? This seemed kind of inappropriate to me. I just couldn't understand what brought these two people together beyond circumstance. And I hate when books use circumstance solely as the basis for romance.

I do think this is a great book to get more people into science fiction though. Since the themes are lighter then a lot of other dystopias and the science fiction aspect isn't in the forefront, I think this novel may make people reconsider some preconceived notions they have about scifi. And that cover is gorgeous (though you can read about some controversy surrounding the original cover here).

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

You can read the first chapter here (pdf).

Verdict:

While I did enjoy the writing, there just wasn't enough meat in this story for me. The plot twists were too obvious and most of the characters two dimensional. If that wasn't enough the ending was completely unsatisfying. I did like how Elder is seen as being unsure of his skills as a leader, but that's pretty much the only true character depth either were given. I also took issue with some of the science in the book.

Rating: 5. Blah – essentially neutral

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