Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review of Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Revis, Beth.  Across the Universe.  Razorbill, 2011.

Pack thousands of people - some frozen, some not - into a metal canister hurtling for hundreds of years through space toward a distance planet, and you've got a recipe for seething trouble.  That's why I love science fiction that takes place on generation ships, and Across the Universe is a fine example of the genre.

17-year-old Amy reluctantly allows herself to be frozen so that she can accompany her parents on a 300-year voyage that will end with all of them being thawed out in order to colonize a new planet.  But Amy is thawed out long before the voyage is over, and, after getting over that shock, realizes that life for the non-frozen folks on board ship is very odd indeed, and has been for for generations.  Luckily, she's not all alone.  Fellow teenager Elder is being groomed to take over as leader of the ship after Eldest, the current leader - but he has almost as many questions about the ship as Amy does. 

There are many problems on board ship, from the way the people seem to be under some form of mind control to all the secrets that Eldest is keeping.  And if that isn't bad enough, someone has been unplugging and killing the frozen colonists, one by one.  Who could it be - and why?

Telling the story from both Elder and Amy's point of view allows the reader to gain an insider's understanding and perspective of life on board the ship, while at the same time feeling the horror of Amy's situation.  Elder has never known any other life, and yet like any thoughtful teenager, he is beginning to see the imperfections and strangeness of things he previously took for granted.  Amy won't see her frozen parents until the ship finally lands on their destination planet - if then - and is almost all alone in a hostile and bizarre environment.  That both perspectives are fascinating and believable is proof of Revis' fine writing and tight control over her story and setting.

Plenty of fascinating topics are raised, providing juicy food for thought.  How can only a couple thousand people keep themselves and their spaceship in good condition over many generations, especially if things go very wrong?  What happens if people start to disagree with one another about the best way to do things?  What if discord threatens to destroy the whole mission?  How far should a leader go to ensure the survival of the ship and its people?

This is excellent science fiction for teens ages 14 and up.  (Do be warned that at one point in the story, quite a bit of rampant sexual activity occurs - nothing gratuitous, mind you, but rather shocking, at least to Amy).  Be sure to check out the double-sided jacket (I much prefer the side with the schematic of the spaceship) and the official website

1 comment:

  1. I have this one out from the library, but haven't read it yet. It sounds great!