March 5, 2012
Review: Across the Universe
Across the Universe Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Amy and her parents sign up to be cryogenically frozen so that they can travel to Centuri-Earth and help colonize a habitable planet. Staying frozen for 300 years while traveling through the stars on the ship Godspeed doesn't sound too bad, but when Amy is woken up 50 years early by a rebellious occupant of the ship her entire future is irrevocably altered. There is no way for her to be refrozen without risk of death or extensive damage so she must find a way to be content with living her life on the strange ship with a community of people who are disturbingly different. If that wasn't enough, Amy faces danger from the ship's leader, Eldest, who believes her drastic differences from the other occupants could lead to mutiny. Luckily, she seems to have made a friend in the ship's future leader Elder, a 16-year old boy who has begun to question Eldest and his methods. As a killer threatens the lives of the other frozen occupants of the ship, Amy must find a way to fit in and discover the ship's secrets before it is too late.
I think I will start out by saying, there were many impressive dsytopian elements to this book. Revis sets the disturbing tone of the book right off the bat letting the reader know, no matter what it may seem like on the surface, something is very wrong here. The American concept of manifest destiny will undoubtedly one day extend to the stars, giving humanity hope for the future. And that's just it, voyaging among the stars and heading to a new planet to colonize should reflect hope and wonder. However, Across the Universe manages to delve deeply into the possibility for flaws and the horrific consequences of desperation. Through this work, Revis asks her readers, "When does the need for order and safety override a human's basic rights?" When it comes to saving humanity, how far is too far? The implications this book presents to its readers are truly frightening and the part I enjoyed the most.
Across the Universe has some amazing moments and makes for a great discussion book, however lack of strong characterization and inconsistent pacing may leave more mature readers on the fence. Now, when I say lack of strong characterization, I men that I personally had a difficult time connecting with the two main characters Amy and Elder. While Amy fights for what she believes is right and doesn't let anyone walk all over her, she also has some very childlike qualities. Throughout the book, she calls her dad, daddy and uses "It's just not fair" reasoning quite a bit. She also seems to throw abrupt temper tantrums and her thought process can be aggravatingly immature. If you are familiar with my reviews, you will know that one of my biggest pet peeves is the "damsel in distress" syndrome. Unfortunately, this happens a lot here. Elder or his best friends Harley are constantly jumping in and saving her from brainless men, Eldest, and often times herself. For me, Amy stopped being likeable after she was unfrozen, which is most of the book.
Elder is a bit better. He questions the ethics of the way the ship is run and wonders if there isn't a better way while still managing to come across as completely ignorant, which he is. It's not really the poor guy's fault, being raised with alternative history to make totalitarian forms of government appear vastly better than the other options. Everyone on the ship is monoethnic, they all have brown skin, brown hair, etc. Everyone looks fairly similar and there is a pretty high risk for incestuous relationships, but what do you expect from a population of people that have been completely isolated for 250 years? Differences are to be feared and only prove to cause trouble. Elder can't help but appear numb or apathetic at times due to his surroundings. He is actually one of the only free-thinking people on board. I saw a lot of good development with Elder and am interested to see how he will do in the next book.
The book also suffers from a mild case of predictability and may or may not have a mind-blowing ending depending on how perceptive you tend to be while reading. I had already figured out who was killing the frozen people by this person's second appearance. I did not see the last little plot twist coming, thank goodness, and was glad to have had a bit of a thrill from my reading experience. I just think this book does not live up to its hype and potential. However, taking in the fact that it is difficult to pull off a mind-blowing first-in-series book, I do give Revis props. Across the Universe is intriguing and an overall enjoyable read, I just wish the characters had been more developed.
To Be Continued? - Yes, I will definitely be giving book 2, A Million Suns, a shot. I can see a lot of the problems I had with this book being resolved.