Across the Universe, by Beth Revis. Razorbill, 2011
Amy leaves all she’s ever known behind and is cryogenically frozen to follow her parents as they set out on a 300-year journey to colonize a new planet only to be awakened early and alone.
Elder, the designated next leader of the ship’s crew, has been born years ahead of the rest of his generation, he is alone in a society with no room for difference. He admits to liking a little chaos, so how could he resist a girl his own age who appears in every way different from all he’s ever known.
But being different in an enclosed world means being an outcast, a challenge to the existing order of things, and perhaps even a threat. Eldest, the current leader and Elder’s mentor, states that the greatest threat to the ship is mutiny and the first cause of discord is difference. The other causes in his mind are lack of a strong central leader and individual thought. But is absolute control really the same as strong leadership? On a ship where every function is based on lies, Amy’s difference and Elder’s tendency toward independent thought threaten both their lives.
Meanwhile, someone is killing the frozen colonists.
The book alternates between Amy’s voice and Elder’s, effectively drawing the reader into the story in spite of the slow pace at the start. While the cover illustration implies this is a romance, in fact the attraction between Amy and Elder is a minor theme. I have a few small complaints. The early discussion of cell walls during the freezing process is bad science. Animals, and therefore humans, do not have cell walls. Also, Amy’s semi-consciousness while frozen is never explained. There are hints that it is abnormal, but then it plays no further role in the story. It feels like a slightly contrived way to avoid dropping her point of view while developing the situation on the ship.
In spite of these minor flaws, Across the Universe is an enjoyable book that explores a dystopian society contained in a claustrophobic steel container hurtling through space.
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in return for writing a review.