Note: There are necessarily spoilers for book one of this series, but not for book two.
A Million Suns continues the story started in book one of this trilogy, Across the Universe. (See my review of book one, here.) Godspeed, a spaceship on its way to colonize a new planet, carries a mix of inhabitants some of whom were cryogenically frozen for their anticipated expertise when the new planet is reached. Amy is one of the frozen who was accidentally defrosted during the journey, and now struggles along with fellow teen and leader of the ship Elder to keep the population in line and reach the planet before the ship deteriorates. Previously, the inhabitants were docile and productive, thanks to a drug, Phydus, that was added to the water supply. Elder, egged on by Amy, took everyone off the drug, but now anarchy and mutiny threaten.
Meanwhile, Orion, Elder’s predecessor who was frozen by Elder at the end of book one, left a series of coded messages hidden throughout the ship for Amy. The messages reveal some big secrets about the ship and the mission that could mean the life or death of everyone on board. With Elder’s help, Amy tries to figure out what the messages really mean before either the inhabitants of the ship kill them, or the catastrophe hinted at by Orion takes place.
Discussion: Amy continues to debate whether she actually “loves” Elder since they are the only two teens on the ship:
“Just that if I was back on Earth instead of on this damn ship, if I had met Elder at school or at a club or on a blind date, if I had my choice between Elder and every other boy in the world . . . Would I love him then? Would he love me? Love without choice isn’t love at all.”
Or is it? She can’t decide, but instead, vacillates back and forth repeatedly, needing to intellectualize her feelings. But none of the “intellectualizing” [sic] takes into account the fact that there is no reason whatsoever for her to be attracted to Elder besides his body, which apparently is one of his positive traits. Elder isn’t very bright or mature, although he has been getting a bit better as a leader, but not much. He’s impulsive, impractical, unfocused and easily frazzled. On the other hand, he’s only sixteen, and never had a real apprenticeship for running the ship. The author is good at letting him grow very incrementally, as might be the case in real life. But why should Amy be in love with him? The only other possibility besides his looks is the fact that his face was the first she saw when she got unfrozen. Like a baby duck, maybe she “imprinted” on him….
Another problem for me: The person who turns out to be “the bad guy” in this book was obvious to me way back in book one. I don’t mind – the question of who was sabotaging things wasn’t as important as why, which was much better concealed by the author. But the biggest mystery to me is why the saboteur feels the need to explain everything to Amy. In fact, in keeping with the character of this person, it is extremely unbelievable that Amy wouldn’t have just been killed. Undoubtedly the dilemma the author faces is first, that Amy is one of the main characters (who therefore can’t be killed off), and second, there is no omniscient voice; we only have Amy and Elder alternating as narrators. Therefore the bad person has to explain everything to one of them or we won’t know about it. But Elder as the recipient of this information would be a much more obvious choice than Amy.
A third quibble: Elder calls Amy a name that should have been unforgivable, and that was, moreover, totally out of character for a guy who is smitten with someone. Amy is mad for about five minutes, then immediately goes running for him, AND says Elder is her “safe place.” Pretty low standards there, Amy!
Finally: Obviously these kids need help. Why the heck don’t they just defrost some of the frozen experts?
Evaluation: In spite of my not being thrilled by either book one or book two, I still am curious enough about what happens to continue on with book three when it appears. (Let me reiterate, also, that most other reviews of these two books are uniformly positive.)
Published by Razorbill, an imprint of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc., 2012