Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Genre: Science Fiction
Paperback: 398 pages
Release date: January 11, 2011
Series: Across the Universe #1
Reviewed by: Stéphanie
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.
I was very intrigued by this book when I first heard of it, a while back. Some people have been raving about this series, but unfortunately this book was not one of my favorites. Despite the interesting synopsis, I felt the writing wasn’t engaging enough for me to really enjoy the book. I’m usually a big fan of science fiction and I think ideally, the book had a lot of potential, but the actual result fell short.
The idea of sending a spaceship into space to colonize a far away planet, and freezing essential members of a future society so that they can be reanimated 300 years later when it lands, is quite interesting. I’m sure the subject has been explored in other books but I think the idea is quite fresh when it comes to YA. I was really excited to read this book but the first 100 pages were really difficult for me to get through. The fact that one of the main characters, Amy, is frozen for a good part of the beginning makes it hard to really connect with her. Her presence is there through fragmented pieces of narration, but those bits and pieces amounted to very little and just added unnecessary words to the novel.
The only thing holding the beginning together is Elder’s point of view, but even then, I had a really hard time connecting with him. His ideals are confused because of his fragmented and disorganized education, which makes it difficult to establish what he stands for. We do see him grow as a character later on, and see him stand up to the tyrannical leader, but his indecision and nonchalant personality makes it hard to view him as a hero and a leader. I can’t blame everything on him because the tyrannical leader, Eldest, did lie and withhold a lot of information from him and the rest of the inhabitants of the spaceship. However, the fact that Elder seems so narrow minded a lot of the time, gives the reader the impression that he’s simple and shortsighted.
Despite my problems with the characters, I think the concept of this brainwashed society is quite provocative. The inhabitants of the spaceship have been lead to believed that normal people are obedient, blank and unfeeling, while free-thinking people are crazy and abnormal. It had been decided by a past leader that a blank and subservient community would be easier to control. The fact that the new generations are now more or less monoethnic because of the population’s limited gene pool, the tyrannical leader thinks this is actually a good thing because differences are thought to be inconvenient and the cause of discord in a society. Eldest is compared to Hitler, which is considered an admirable trait in a leader by the brainwashed society. That alone is enough for us to see that there’s something wrong with this society.
The societal ramification of having many people living in a limited space is observed is this book, which makes it very educational. The book did make me think and observe space travel in a different way. However, I think some reader will agree with me when I say, despite all the information we are given, it seems like very little happens in this book. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE might not have been for me but I really think many future reader will probably enjoy it more than I did.