When I first read the blurb for Beth Revis’ science-fiction novel, I was genuinely impressed. Finally, a combination of two of my favourite genres, science-fiction and young adult, and set in space. A definite winner, I though. And I was not disappointed!
To solve the overcrowding population on a future Earth, the ship Godspeed is being sent on a 300 year journey to a distant planet, in the hopes of founding a new human colony. Amy’s parents are vital crew members, frozen for the full extent of the journey, along with hundreds of other brilliant scientists, tacticians and important experts involved in establishing a new human settlement. Amy however, is non-vital, only included in the frozen members of the ship’s cargo because she couldn’t bear to live on Earth without them. Throughout Godspeed’s journey, it will be maintained by generation to generation of on-board scientists and farmers, who will live their entire lives serving the frozen crew until they reach their destination. But frozen life is not calm or peaceful, and Amy has horrible, real dreams. Until she awakens. But there is no-one there to great her, and the ship is still on course. Then she meets the ship’s current leader, Eldest, and his protégée Elder, and learns the horrible truth: Someone tried to kill her unplugging her tank. 250 years after she left. Learning that she cannot be refrozen, she quickly realises that she left her home to be with her parents, whom she will most likely now outlive. Her only hope to remain sane is to integrate herself into Godspeed’s new society. But even that isn’t as simple as she would hope… After 250 years of little genetic diversity, controlled breeding, and a mysterious plague, the crew of Godspeed all look alike, dark hair, tanned skin, and live in a complacent world of following the orders set down by Eldest. Anyone who shows any signs of rebellion, freethinking or creativity is labelled insane, and locked up in the ships hospital. Amy, with her passion for life, her vibrant red hair, pale skin and green eyes, could not be more different to the norm, so Eldest sends her to the hospital, away from his perfectly balanced society, leaving Elder to keep an eye on her. Elder however, has been keeping an eye on Amy from day one, he’s fascinated by her, and through her, he’s starting to see the holes in the ship’s perfect society. When another, more successful murder attempt occurs amongst the frozen members of the crew, Amy fears for the life of her parents, and with the help of Elder’s access to the ship, she plans on getting to the bottom of everything…
I think Across the Universe may be unfairly viewed by a cursory glance, and so I’m hoping anyone who reads this will take my advice on-board: It isn’t regular teen romance, nor is it Twilight in space. A far cry from it. What Across the Universe in fact is a clever social commentary, with themes of dystopia harking to a 1984 style level of control and unquestioning loyalty to a regime. The plot is a thick, deeply twisted a layered mystery, with both characters objectives merging into one in an unexpected turn that is brilliantly executed and clearly well thought out. The characters especially help bring the story through, lending it superb emotional weight. Amy’s journey from depression and bleakness to rebellion and determination really drive the narrative and give the reader a sense of drive to reach the conclusion with her, while Elder’s sense of naive curiosity soon develops into a real revolutionary spirit, burning with desire for the truth. Eldest is a twisted wreck, and watching his struggle to do what is right and what must be done is a great reflection on the perils of leadership, and social constructs designed to separate and label people. The book also examines the idea of the younger generation attempting to change the life work of hundreds of years of injustice and poor judgement, something which I think it’s important for young people to realise they have the power to do. The book also discusses the perils of science, and more importantly, the idea that just because we can do something, doesn’t always mean we should. In this case, especially in the case of controlling an entire populations brain chemistry, genetics and genealogy, which with the route today’s scientific advancements are making, are issues we all need to be well aware of sooner rather than later.
As always, I hope you enjoyed the review, please pick it up at a Book-store near you.