Amy Martin is only 17 years old when she follows her parents into a frozen state of slumber, pledging to end her life on Earth in order to wake up in 300 years on a new planet. Along with scores of America’s finest scientists and military personnel, Amy and her parents are cryogenically frozen and loaded aboard Godspeed, the technologically-advanced ship that will carry them to Centauri Earth.
But things don’t go as planned. Fifty years from their planned arrival on the new planet, Amy wakes up — and nearly drowns in her ice-filled chamber. Elder, the ship’s future leader, is there to rescue “the girl with sunset hair” — and Amy wakes up to a scary world on Godspeed. Elder is part of a new race of people led by Eldest, a serious and somewhat tyrannical leader, in a place where any differences are discouraged and mating is regulated. When Amy discovers she’s not the only one being woken prematurely, Elder and Amy embark on a quest to discover who could be trying to kill the Frozens aboard Godspeed — before it’s too late for all of them.
Beth Revis’ Across The Universe is a heart-pumping, rollicking ride through space that had me gripping the steering wheel (this was an audio!) for dear life. With enough twists and turns to keep me intrigued, Revis’ debut novel — the first in a series — was powerful, thought-provoking and entertaining.
Amy is the type of YA heroine we all champion. Aggressive, loyal and wise beyond her years, she’s a fully-dimensional and empathetic character who captured my attention from the get-go. Across The Universe’s opening scene, in which the Martin family is undergoing the freezing process, had ice running (pun intended) through my veins. The early passages featuring Amy’s frozen dreams were spine-tingling. And don’t get me started on when she wakes up — yikes.
What bonded me to her, though, was not her sense of bravery or loyalty to her family. It was her girl-next-door-ness, if you will; the feeling that, despite the horrific and crazy things happening to her, she’s a normal girl struggling to make sense of an incredibly abnormal situation. The passages where she recalls Jason, her boyfriend back on Earth, and acknowledges that he would have been dead hundreds of years by the time she awakens . . . well, that was gut-wrenching. I imagined choosing now to leave behind my entire life — my friends, my other family, my hopes and dreams — for a chance to wake up on a new planet 300 years in the future. And I can’t — not without feeling sick.
For as well as I felt I got to know Amy, Elder is a little more foreign and otherworldly — which works, I guess, considering he’s . . . well, otherworldly. Born and bred to be the future leader of Godspeed, Elder is under the tutelage of Eldest, a truly frightening character. What scared me most about Eldest was the idea that, despite everything, his methods of containing Godspeed seemed perfectly logical to him. And when we realize Eldest isn’t giving us the whole truth, that scared me more.
Never once did I consider turning back once I’d started this adventure, and though it initially reminded me of Amy Kathleen Ryan’s Glow, a book I read last year, it was entirely its own story (and Across The Universe was actually published first). Loving this one so much actually forced me to revise my earlier opinions of Glow, something I don’t normally do, because the world of Godspeed was so tangible compared to the regulated one of the New Horizon. Both feature strong female leads (Amy and Waverly), but I much preferred the fast-paced and eery quality of Across The Universe.
And what of the love story? Despite the suggested intimacy of the hardcover art (at left), the growing closeness of Amy and Elder isn’t as critical to the story as I’d anticipated. This was no problem for me, considering I was so tied up in the intricate layers of deceit binding Godspeed together. All the same, I did nurse a little hope that Amy would come around to admiring Elder for his strength and bravery — and that maybe they’d hook up as an act of (serious) rebellion.
Guess I’ll have to check out the sequel for that.
Fans of fantasy, dystopian novels and stories set in deep space will find plenty to enjoy in Revis’ fast-paced, gripping novel. The societal issues regarding regulating the general populace, controlling the population and its mating habits (ooh, sexy!) and the absolute power of dictators (wasn’t Eldest doing exactly what he preached against, anyway?) elevated this above a simple dystopian novel. Despite its young adult designation, plenty of adult themes were laced into this awesome tale — so bear that in mind for young readers.
4.5 out of 5!
My feelings on the narration: A female and male narrator voiced Amy and Elder’s parts, respectively, and while I enjoyed both, Elder’s impersonation of Amy sounded like a caricature. You know how boys tease and imitate girls by making their voices all funny and high-pitched? Yeah. Like that. Thankfully, those moments were rare — and overall, I felt the narration and pacing were very well done. Elder almost had a slight accent, too, which contributed nicely to the otherworldly-ness of his character. When Amy admitted to having a hard time understanding the dialect, all the better.