Review of “Across the Universe” by Beth Revis

Seventeen-year-old Amy is part of a group of pioneers (including her parents) frozen for transport aboard the first manned interstellar exploratory ship, called Godspeed, sent from Earth to colonize a new planet in a projected landing time of 300 years. After 250 years, however, Amy is mysteriously awakened, and cannot be refrozen. She finds some 2300 mono-ethnic people aboard – running the ship, growing its food, and living a rather bizarrely regulated existence under the dictatorship of a man called Eldest. Under the tutelage of Eldest is a 16-year-old boy called Elder – he will be the next leader after Eldest dies. The story is told in alternating chapters by Amy and Elder.

Elder is rather bizarrely uncurious before Amy comes along. Eldest has supposedly been training Elder for the past three years, but Elder doesn’t know the first thing about the ship or how it operates. (He did learn from Eldest, however, that Hitler was a “heroic” leader on Old Earth.) And why, only now, is he being taught “the three causes of discord” so that he can lead the people on the ship? (You can sort of guess that “truth” and access to information would probably be on the list of things “causing discord.”)

When Amy is awakened, suddenly everything gets shaken up. She asks questions! She challenges Elder’s assumptions! She gets Elder to act rebelliously! She talks back to Eldest! (One of the many mysteries of the book is why Eldest – not the world’s most benevolent leader – doesn’t just lock her up or throw her out the hatch.)

Meanwhile, some other frozen people are clandestinely unfrozen, and they are dying because, still submerged in cyrogenic goo, they suffocate before they can be rescued. Amy is terrified her parents could be next. She and Elder try to: catch the culprit; figure out why almost everyone else exists in a trance-like docile state; and deal with their growing attraction to each other (the biggest mystery of all, since Elder is pretty darn clueless and Amy is way more on the ball). There are also some other pressing puzzles: when is the ship actually going to land? Why was Elder picked to be the next Eldest (and how could he not have figured it out)? And what about Doc, the ship’s Joseph Mengele? What should they do about what they find out?

Stay tuned for the next installment of the trilogy…

Evaluation: There were a number of things that didn’t work for me about this particular book. (I feel compelled to add “for me” since this series has been extremely popular among bloggers.) However, there were so many big changes at the end of the book that I am curious to see how plays out in the next volume. So of course I will soldier on, intrepidly, and tackle the next installment!

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), 2011

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21 Responses to Review of “Across the Universe” by Beth Revis

  1. Sandy says:

    I got this book at the 2010 SIBA and handed it off to my daughter. But I don’t think she ever read it, or at least got all the way through it. I know some have loved it, but there have been enough people come out of the experience luke warm that I’ve held off. Guess I will see where it all goes before I commit. (Grumble, grumble, trilogy schmilogy)

  2. I didn’t think I was interested in this until I heard the author read from it. Still, I’ve been leery since it feels like sci-fi dystopia. I will probably try it one day, though, since the author lives fairly close to here and comes to some of the events at my local bookstore.

  3. zibilee says:

    I also have these two books, and had been curious about them. Your review is really excellent because it gives me a great idea of what to expect when I do finally pick these up. I can see that some things will work for me, but others might not. I will also be curious to see what you think of the next installment of the series as well. It sounds interesting, if a little weird!

  4. Meg says:

    I was pretty undecided on this one until I really got ensconced in the story — but that did seem to take a while! I ended up loving this one, though I can see why others would have issues with it. I’m hoping to grab the second one soon! (Also, I listened on audio — which I think kept my interest more than reading a physical book would have . . .)

  5. Margot says:

    Although not my kind of book, I can see why this would be appealing to many. It doesn’t sound like the author thought it through in a logical, inter-personal way. Maybe these books aren’t supposed to be logical.

  6. karensandler says:

    I’m just past the half-way point in this one. I love the premise and the story is pretty decent, but Elder reads more like a MG hero than a YA one. I do like Amy’s pov much better. The writing is a bit clunky in places (and just fine in others). Not too surprising that it’s a first book. I look forward to reading your review of the next book in the series.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I agree that much of this book reads like an MG book, but the references to mating season and the almost-rape probably kill it off for the MG market. I much prefer dystopias to give me something to think about, as does, for example, Tankborn…..

      • karensandler says:

        Ya know, if Across the Universe were MG (absent all the adult/sexual stuff), I think I’d enjoy it a lot more. Makes me wonder if it started out that way. Hmm.

        And thanks for the Tankborn mention. I’m working hard on Book 2 as we speak.

  7. Iris says:

    I’m not sure if you meant your review to be funny, but that plot description was hilarious. I’m actually curious to read this now, because I’d like to find out how clueless Elder really is 🙂

  8. Julie P. says:

    You might not have loved it but you will keep coming back for more. That says something.

  9. Jenners says:

    It does seem odd to me that the big villain would let an obvious loose end like Amy roam around causing problems. Still, the idea sounds kind of neat — if poorly executed. I hate when that happens!

  10. I’m surprised that even with the low rating you read the next one! Hope it was better 😀

  11. Interesting thoughts on this… I still am not sure if I would enjoy it…

  12. sagustocox says:

    This is a series I’ll have to skip…these character problems would drive me batty

  13. Alyce says:

    As you know this was one of my favorites from last year, partly because I love books about suspended animation & cold-sleep. As far as romance goes, I was happy at least that they weren’t physically throwing themselves at each other, like so many other YA characters who are ready to jump into bed ten minutes after meeting the hunky love interest. In that way I found it refreshing. I think part of the reason I enjoyed this so much is that I have a different reading filter for some genres, and a huge weak spot for sci-fi.

  14. This sounds just a little too weird for my taste I think..

  15. Darlene says:

    Oh oh, I won’t have a chance to read this one for a while yet but I sure hope I’ll like it more than you did. Lol.

  16. stacybuckeye says:

    So, I read your review of the second first? Anyway, the concept sounds out there but interesting.

  17. Trish says:

    You lost me at ” frozen aboard the first manned interstellar exploratory ship, called Godspeed, sent from Earth to colonize a new planet in a projected landing time of 300 years.” How did I not know that about this book? I just…can’t, but you’re right–seems that bloggers LOOOOOOOOOURVE this one.

  18. Bookworm1858 says:

    I remember enjoying this and not noticing really any of the things you pointed out. I’m still on the fence about picking up the second book though because there are so many other books that sound more up my alley.

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