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