Published by Penguin Audio on 1/11/2011
Genres: Romance, Science-fiction, Young Adult
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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.\r\n\r\nAmy 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.\r\n\r\nNow 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.
What can I say about Across the Universe by Beth Revis? It was a strong(ish) science-fiction/romance with an underlying theme that history is doomed to repeat itself if you don’t learn from your mistakes.
The world Beth Revis built is very strong and vivid. Humans have begun ruining (Sole) Earth, so to save the race, they’ve built a city-sized space-ship called Godspeed to take them to Santori Earth so they can start over. A number of citizens who will contribute to the re-population of Santori Earth are cryogenically frozen for the 300 years it will take for Godspeed to reach the planet. And Amy, the 16-year-old daughter of two of these citizens opts to go with her parents, rather than stay on Sole Earth without them. Until she’s wakened from her frozen slumber and discovers there is a murderer aboard the ship, as well as genetically- and chemically-altered humans governed by a man no better than probably Adolf Hitler himself.
The world-building and set-up for the story in Across the Universe is fantastic. Revis does a really good job explaining why Godspeed came into existence in the first place, and what the purpose of the mission is to be: populate a new planet, and this time, do things right. I also found that I really liked her use of historical parallels in Across the Universe; Eldest reminded me very much of Hitler (as, I’m sure, he was supposed to) in the way he was focused on mono-ethnicity and preaching the dangers of change. He felt like a very scary man. The people of Godspeed were also interesting, in light of Eldest, since he controlled them (how is a nice little spoiler in the story and I don’t want to give that up). I also thought it was great how the doctor thinks he can solve anything with medications and in our current society that’s also the answer to everything. By the way, I’m not judging, but it’s a nice little parallel that gets you thinking about things a bit!
The pace of the story is fairly quick: there were not a lot of slow points, and in fact, it starts out rather curious and a bit frenzied, with Amy and her parents beginning the process of cryogenesis. I think that first initial bit might be my favorite part.
The audiobook performance is superb. Lauren Ambrose was one of my favorite 90s teen b-movie actresses and I loved her in Can’t Hardly Wait. She knocked the ball out of the park in the Across the Universe narration and I definitely think she should do more of these. While she isn’t the best narrator I’ve heard (the narrator of Blood Red Road probably ruined me for everyone else), she was still pretty darn good and I’d buy more of the audiobooks she does. Carlos Santos does a good job narrating the male point of view in the story. And both narrators have quite a great range that make the audiobook enjoyable.
So why is Across the Universe only three stars for me? While it hit a lot of the right tones, the ending was a smack in the face. Elder’s personality felt too conflicted for me to completely get into; he rightly questioned a lot of his own circumstances, but I still thought he acquiesced too much and I didn’t think those two traits fit together all that well. The romance felt inconsequential, which I’m sure was what Revis was trying to do, because it wasn’t the sole point of the story, but when paired with the ending…well, was it consequential or not? Because it didn’t feel like it was for most of the story and then I find out it might have been the whole reason for the book? Wait, what? I also felt like the final twist to the story was purely to connect to the next book and didn’t jive with the story at all. Amy’s flippant acceptance of who actually woke her from her frozen state was completely out of character and left me baffled…and sort of ruined the book for me. I’m an Ender, endings make or break books for me and this one sort of broke it. I will still probably read the next one – when I have the time – because I did enjoy the story overall, but now I’m not in a rush to get it.
Overall, Across the Universe is a good science-fiction story and I did enjoy it, despite my distaste for the ending. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys the genre and those looking for a scifi book to dip their toes into for the first time.
Disclaimers: This audiobook was purchased by my hard-earned moolah but my review is still honest. Blurb and book cover courtesy of Goodreads.