Renee Reviews: Beth Revis's - "Across The Universe"

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.

This title was incredibly hyped within the YA community prior to and upon its release, and has since received a large amount of praise and recognition. While the attractive cover and the Beatles-inspired title certainly earned my interest, I was a little hesitant as to whether the science-fiction elements would prove to have any substance and originality, or whether this would fall into yet another trap of being a romance hiding behind another genre.  Thankfully, the former won out, and in addition, the book proved to have strong elements of murder mystery and dystopian fiction which melded seamlessly with the inter-galactic setting.

Told in dual narration, Across the Universe offers two unique perspectives on an uncertain future in the vast nothingness of space; Amy is our connection to the Earth that we know, and Elder is a resident of the human population born into space. Both characters have incredibly jarring and contrasting views on basic human behaviour as well as larger moral issues (evident in some quite disturbing scenes of sexual activity) which help to present a more immediate portrayal of the dual decline and advancement of human nature during its time in space.

Amy and Elder boast strong character traits, making for worthy protagonists, and their eventual romance doesn’t feel too forced or rushed, and is in fact quite credibly drawn, given the wider context of murder and social collapse that surrounds them. However, the true drawcard of this novel came for me in the supporting characters, namely Elder’s friend Harley, whose emotional breakdown was the real moment of connection for me as a reader.

The pacing of the novel was well-crafted, with much of the mystery remaining out of reach until effectively unravelled; also, as this is the first instalment in a series, there was the sense of ‘to be continued’ but never the infuriatingly feeling of details being purposefully omitted. Beth Revis also does atmosphere superbly, and this is evident from the novel’s opening chapter, in which Amy is cryogenically frozen, narrating each stomach-churning detail as it happens. Never before have I felt so incredibly claustrophobic while reading!!

I found Across The Universe to be an enjoyable read, with some interesting moral dilemmas raised, and given its popularity and strong readership, I think it will continue to have a great deal of well-earned success. Now I must just get my hands on its sequel, A Million Suns!

Across the Universe – Beth Revis

Razorbill Australia

ISBN – 1595143971

416 pages

January 11th 2011

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