Friday, September 21, 2012

Review of Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe
by Beth Revis
5 Scribbles

Despite following every series in the Star Trek franchise, I have always been reluctant to read science fiction set in space.  I suppose I feel that odd-looking aliens and artificial gravity translate better to the big screen than to paper. Thus, I was a bit reluctant to embark on the inter-galactic journey depicted in this novel. But, oh, am I glad I did!

The first page immediately sucks the reader in as Amy watches her parents be cryogenically frozen in preparation for a journey through space that will last 300 years. 300 years!  No one really knows what being frozen is like. Does one sleep? Does one dream? Amy’s dad leaves her with a choice shortly before he is frozen, Amy can stay with her friends and her beloved aunt and uncle or be frozen with her parents and wake up in a new world on a new planet after 300 years have passed and everyone on Earth has long since died. The choice seems like a simple one, but it is really? What would you choose if you were in Amy’s shoes?

Fast forward 250 years and the reader meets the second main character, Elder, who was born on the ship that houses the “Frozens” and will one day be its leader. It’s amazing how the culture on the ship has developed since Amy’s freezing, how the residents have become mono-ethnic, non-religious, and uneducated about their planet of origin—Earth.  What’s really amazing is that despite thousands of residents, everyone obeys Eldest, the leader, without question, there are no police or prisons, and peace reigns.Residents don't even mate unless a particular "season" is declared so that incest doesn't become an issue. How has Elder’s teacher, Eldest, made this happen? The descriptions of the ship, its life-sustaining biosphere, and its people are meticulously drawn in an artist’s detail on the page. While reading I imagined myself walking in the small green fields amongst genetically modified plants and animals, imagined myself visiting the colorful gardens and the pristine learning center, and imagined what the 250-year-old recycled air must taste like. The ship runs beautifully, or does it? It doesn’t take long for secrets to start being exposed, for murders to happen, and for Elder to discover that life aboard this ship is not the utopia he thought it was. What’s really pleasing about the novel is that no one is exactly who or what they appear to be—twists and treachery reside on every corner—and that adds mystery and suspense to the story.  The first murder Elder discovers isn’t the only murder that’s taken place on this ship—but how can this be? And when the final secret is revealed the reader will shiver with delight.  

Lastly, good news! You don’t have to wait for the next installment. A Million Suns, book two in the trilogy is already at your local library!

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