Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Release Date: January 11, 2011 (hardcover)/November 29, 2011 (paperback)
Pages: 398 pages (hardcover/paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it for the H.Y.P.E. Project (details here)
Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends--and planet--behind to join her parents as a member of the Project Ark Ship. Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.
Someone tried to murder her.
Now, Amy is caught inside a tiny world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest's rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead.
Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship's cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.
Amy signed up for being frozen for three hundred years while the ship Godspeed took her, her parents, and others to a new planet known as Centauri-Earth, but she didn't sign up for spending most of those years with her mind still active in her frozen state. She most certainly didn't sign up for nearly dying when someone unplugged the cryo machine keeping her alive and frozen. Elder, the heir of Godspeed and its eventual leader after Eldest steps down, is fascinated by Amy, a girl so unlike the others. Though he would love to get to know her better, they have bigger worries on their hands: Eldest is behaving suspiciously, Amy feels there is something very wrong on the ship, and someone keeps unplugging cryo machines, killing the people inside. To save Amy's father and the other Frozens, they will have to find the killer and it may lead to the breakdown of order on the ship.
I felt Amy was a little stronger of a character than Elder, though both of them could have been improved upon and their connection needed to be stronger than it was. Her early chapters from when she was frozen/getting frozen were terrifying and the strongest scenes of the novel. For those scenes alone, I will be keeping this book instead of giving it to my local used bookstore for credit. I never fully got a grip on Elder's character. Was he a rebel to the max, a whiner, a wimp, a boy wise beyond his years? All the above? None? I know his thoughts, but I don't feel like I know him well enough. Not to mention that his fantasizing about Amy at the beginning was pretty creepy.
And the big secret Elder reveals toward the end? B-U-L-L. We'd been in his head for half the book by the time it was revealed; that something that big didn't come up earlier felt cheap and unbelievable. I have abandoned other books halfway through for pulling the same trick and it has me so badly frustrated that I doubt I will pick up the next book at all.
The plot line about who was unfreezing/killing the Frozens was painfully predictable and the book as a whole would have been much stronger if it had been dropped altogether. Honestly, “predictable” is this book’s middle name. There wasn't a lot about the novel I didn't see coming. Still, something about their narrative voices kept me reading when I got bored and wanted to do something else. Maybe it was hope I would see the triumphant return of strong scenes like those at the beginning of the novel. If only that hope had been rewarded.
Across the Universe was unexpectedly as much of a dystopian novel as it was a sci-fi novel. It hits all the main ideas (people should not be controlled, they deserve to know the truth no matter what the consequences might be, ), but it doesn't try to do anything new with those messages. The standard black-and-white view is defaulted to without much of an attempt at bringing out the shades of grey in why generations of Eldests ruled the ship the way they did. Since the antagonist was clear from the start, there really wasn't much conflict going on.
I quite liked the writing style and it had its beautiful moments, but it was also one of the book’s problems. Elder and Amy are two separate people with very different personalities, but they described everything the exact same way and used the same evocative language. I constantly lost track of who was talking because there was so little difference in their narratives. It got bad enough that I would be reading through Elder’s point of view while he interacted with Amy and I would still think I was reading through Amy’s point of view.
I may be intelligent and incredibly pretty (your mileage may vary on the latter, but that’s what I think), but science is and always has been my worst subject. Still, even I can see how wrong it is when Newton’s first law of motion (an object that is in motion will stay in motion until an external force acts upon it) is ignored. There are probably deeper problems than that, but that’s the one that really sticks out. Then again, considering it gets retconned at the beginning of the sequel… Nah, that could have been easily fixed in this book with one simple note from Amy that Newton’s laws don’t work that way. I’m not the most believable person on this, but there wasn’t much else that stuck out as particularly illogical, nonsensical, or just plain wrong.
Was it worth the hype?
For all its strengths and flaws as a book, I think I can say that yes, it was worth the hype. It isn’t the strongest book, but it’s a good introduction to YA sci-fi that appears to be the start of a good series and could lead readers to even more YA sci-fi novels. After that cheap twist at the end, A Million Suns isn't high up on my to-read list.
Bonus cover section
I like both of them, but I’m a little more partial to the paperback’s cover. The hardcover’s cover is beautiful with the stars, but it’s also very cheesy and makes you think the book has a strong romantic element when it doesn’t. The paperback’s cover is more visually appealing to me. The circular shape, clear focus, and various shades of blue catch my eye just as well as the hardcover’s cover would and give a better picture of what Across the Universe is really about.
What am I reading next?: Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne