Across the Universe is an interesting take on the current dystopian trend in young adult fiction. The entire story takes place on an enormous spaceship, the Godspeed, that was designed to take over 2000 colonists from our Earth to Centauri-Earth, a planet that probes had indicated would be habitable by humans. Unfortunately, Centauri-Earth is a 300-year trip away.
The book starts with Amy and her parents being frozen for the trip. Amy’s parents are frozen first, in order to give her the opportunity to walk away and stay on Earth with her aunt and uncle. Amy is so attached to her parents, however, that she chooses to go with them on the 300-year trip. The first pages of the book are extremely uncomfortable, as Revis gives a very detailed description of the painful process of the freezing.
It is somewhat unclear whether Amy is actually aware during her 250-year stint in the cryo-chamber. There are short chapters in the beginning of the book describing Amy’s thoughts and dreams while she “sleeps”, but it is never clear if these are during the 250-year trip, while she is initially being frozen, or while she is thawing. I really didn’t think that the extent of the description of the experience in the cryo-chamber was necessary. I think one chapter describing the experience would have been enough.
Amy awakes 250 years into the 300 year trip to Centauri-Earth to find that her parents are still frozen and there is no way to refreeze her. She struggles to come to grips with the fact that she will not see her parents for another 50 years. The presence of Elder, the future leader of the ship, provides her some comfort. I was somewhat confused by the presence of the additional 2000 people on board the Godspeed. Until Amy awakes from her frozen sleep, there is no indication that there is anyone else on the ship but the frozen colonists. As it turns out, there are an additional 2000 people on the ship that have been charged with making sure the ship makes it to Centauri-Earth. Over the 250 years they have been travelling, they have developed an entire new civilization. The story turns upon Elder and Amy’s discoveries that the leader of the ship, Eldest, has been using some questionable measures to maintain the seemingly perfect civilization.
The story takes a while to develop, and it wraps up somewhat abruptly. It’s almost as if Revis realized she was reaching the top of the acceptable word count for a young adult novel, and she had to wrap it up quick and get it off to the publisher so she could start working on the sequel (Across the Universe is the first in a trilogy). The story, however, is interesting enough, with a couple twists to it, that I am definitely going to read the sequel, A Million Suns. I am curious as to how Revis plans on solving some of the issues she puts in front of Elder and Amy in Across the Universe, most of all, whether they will make it to Centauri-Earth at all.