ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Written by Beth Revis
Published by Razorbill, January 11, 2011
My star rating: 3.5 stars
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. (Goodreads)
A while ago, when I asked the bookish community for science fiction recommendations, this book came up quite a few times. I was looking for something that resembled the movie Passengers and you all got it spot on. The plot was quite close to the movie, but unfortunately I didn’t connect to this book the way that I wanted to. I went into this one knowing that I couldn’t compare the two and it would only hurt my reading experience if I did. But what ended up happening is I found myself comparing it to something else – The Giver by Lowis Lowry. This book was SOOO similar to that except for the space setting! But there was something missing in this that I just can’t quite put my finger on, so this review may be a bit of a mess.
Amy is a 17 year old girl who chooses to be frozen to go into space with her parents. They are travelling to a new planet, which will take over 300 years of space travel to reach, so they’re frozen to be awakened once they reach their destination. Her parents have essential skills that will aid in survival once they reach the new planet but Amy is a nonessential, having no skills to offer – she just wanted to stay with her family. Elder is roughly the same age as Amy and is in training to be the next leader of the ship. The current leader, Eldest, is a strange man that is known to be a tyrant and keeps secrets. It’s almost time for Elder to take over as leader but Eldest isn’t training Elder properly and is hiding essential things that Elder needs to know. Out of nowhere, Amy is awoken from freezing early and things change quickly. In a ship where everyone is the same, her arrival makes them nervous. The ships passengers are literally all the same – same eyes, hair, skin colour – as the Eldest believes that differences cause discord. The majority of the ship is strangely compliant to all of this – they believe that the Eldest’s word is law and he’s put on an almost godly pedestal. But not all of the ships residents follow him blindly. Some question his motives and choices – and those people are labeled as crazy; being kept in a ward and are fed “mental meds”. Elder himself is questioning his teacher/leader, especially after the arrival of Amy.
The plot was interesting but at the same time I found it hard to follow. There were so many different aspects to follow. There’s:
- The leader (Eldest) and the ships authority figures (such as the doctor)
- Elder, the leader in training
- Amy, the unfrozen girl from Earth
- The residents labeled as “crazy”
- The “feeder” residents (the largest group who are the leaders followers)
- The older residents called “greys”
- The residents from earth still currently frozen
- The strange nature and customs
While I understand that all the aspects of this ship had their own role to play in the plot, it was written in such a way that I found it all hard to relate to. There were so many secrets to unravel about all these different divisions. And even Elder himself had no clue. Both points of view (Elder and Amy) were coming from people who were clueless and it made me feel like they were both unreliable. Neither one could figure out who they were and what they were doing. Yes, this was a part of the story itself – they’re both on a ship trying to figure out the truth – but it’s the way it was written that made it hard for me to connect with. I connected more with Amy as her emotions were closer to the surface, but even still, I didn’t appreciate her completely. The person I connected most with was Harley, who is a side character that was one of the “crazy” ones.
I have appreciated many stories in the past where a leader feels as though differences cause problems so they try to make everything the same. Or if they have separate divisions so that everyone feels like they have a purpose – The Hunger Games, The Giver, Divergent – just to name a few. But this one felt very abrasive and mean at times. It all comes together to prove a point in the end but it was really hard to read.
Now that I’ve gone through those points it probably sounds to you like I hated the book. I didn’t. I struggled, but didn’t hate it. It was a really fast read and fast paced as well. It was just one of those books where you feel like you’re sitting in the dark just waiting to find out the whole story before you can form an opinion. I really liked how it showed how a society (albeit a small society floating in space) can be influenced by a set of opinions. That society can also see that there are wrongs being done and fight to right them. I like that people can see past their differences and their social status’s and work together for a common goal. And I liked how eventually the science fiction elements of the ship and their mission was revealed in the end and mashed with the political aspects of this society created on the ship.
What I REALLY loved was the science behind the ship as a whole. This ship was built to last a trip lasting over 300 years to another planet. A group of people were living on the ship and surviving like they would on Earth. They had a medical unit, a farm (including both plants and animals), water purification, artificial seasons, artificial sunlight and rain, and so much more. I loved all of this! It really helped me invasion how they lived and survived on this ship on a day to day basis. In a way I wished I had a little more detail on how all these systems worked. And then there was the cryogenically frozen people from earth – the reality of that really creeped me out!!
I do plan to read the second book eventually. I’m hoping that now the secrets and lies are out in the open I will feel more of an emotional connection with the characters and get more invested into the story. But I can’t help but feel like I would have connected to this book if I was a little bit younger.
Have you read this series? What were your thoughts?
Until next time, happy reading!