Saturday, 22 January 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Series: Trilogy
Genre: Science Fiction
Age Group:Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin AU
Release Date: Jan 2011
Format: Paperback, 408 pages
ISBN-13: 9780141333663
RRP: $19.95 AUD
Source: Thank you to the publisher, who provided this book for an honest review,all opinions expressed are my own.
Cover love? Love this cover! It takes my breath away, especially with the significance of the positions of the silhouettes (now that I’ve read the book), and the metaphor that Elder and Amy are separated by a galaxy.  It’s gorgeous and captivating…reflective of the book. Although the AUS cover lacks the pretty galaxy background the US cover has.

Amy has left the life she loves for a world 300 years away
Trapped in space and frozen in time, Amy is bound for a new planet. But fifty years before she's due to arrive, she is violently woken, the victim of an attempted murder. Now Amy's lost on board and nothing makes sense - she's never felt so alone.
Yet someone is waiting for her. He wants to protect her; and more if she'll let him
But who can she trust amidst the secrets and lies? 
A killer is out there – and Amy has nowhere to hide . . .


As an avid reader and huge fan of sci-fi, I felt mixed emotions about picking up Across the Universe. I hadn’t read a proper science fiction in ages, and I feared that I would be disappointed by comparisons to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, my favourite book of all time. The two books were very different though, and I found myself amazed that such a different yet similar story could be told. 

What I admire about futuristic novels is how the author presents their own vision of the future, interpreted from our modern world. Beth Revis’ future race aboard the starship Godspeed are ethnically ambiguous (due to inbreeding), taller, and have a darker skin tone, which stands to reason. Their speech has also evolved, with an accent that is hard for Amy to distinguish. I like that Beth Revis has illustrated these tiny but consequential changes in the human population of Godspeed, because it imbues the book with a sense of authenticity.

She also explores the concepts of a dictatorial rule in an enclosed environment: censorship, deception, a strong ruler, freedom, and rebellion.  It’s an intelligent and mature topic for the Young Adult fiction genre, but is very appropriate in a time when young adults like myself are becoming increasingly aware of the politics of our time. Beth Revis presents her ideas in an intelligent way, and despite having read the Ender Saga (which features star ships abundantly and therefore raises similar ideas), I can’t help but imagine that this is most likely outcome from a less advance society’s attempt to colonise a planet in another star system. Beth Revis also raises many moral and ethical issues in the book, which I am hesitant to spoil, but was completely blown away by. Across the Universe is very, very clever.

Characters. For me, I couldn’t help but compare Elder to Ender (c’mon, just one letter different). I read somewhere that Beth Revis has read Ender’s Game, so I think my comparisons are legit. Elder is similar to Ender in many ways – they are both young boys chosen for a particular, pivotal role that they are unaware of, and forced into leadership positions. They are both intelligent (although Ender is superior in that sense) and have natural abilities that render them the prime candidates, yet they are continually deceived by adults. However, Elder is portrayed as an adolescent, whilst Ender was a child, and as such, Elder is much more heavily influenced by his attraction to Amy and has this character flaw (which isn’t really a flaw). The point that I’m driving at is that my reading of Across the Universe was influenced heavily by Ender’s Game, and therefore I thought Elder was a similar but inferior character to Ender, because Elder lacked Ender’s intuition, intelligence, character development and the scope of his perceptions. These elements directly influence the narration and therefore, the story that I experience. Yes, I’m long winded and biased, all of a sudden. It must be the holidays. Als

Amy and Elder’s romance wasn’t really as captivating as the romances in other young adult fiction, but it was the prime aspect that categorised Across the Universe as a YA novel, because really, what is a YA novel without a little bit of love? What I really feel is that the novel didn’t need the romance, and could have been great without it. But maybe that’s just my Ender’s-Game-fangirl side speaking. What’s your opinion – does a YA novel have to have romance?

What I love about Across the Universe was the plot! Reminiscent of science fiction films such as Moon and other horror murder mysteries, the storyline was very creepy and gives you goosebumps and chills down your spine when you find out who the murderer is. I thought it could have been scarier though…the big reveal could have been accompanied by a “Muahahahaha” by the perpetrator and a creepy, “Twenty long years I have waited to get revenge”, with really epic music in the background? But then again, this is YA, so the big reveal was downplayed and less dramatic than it could have been, and therefore less shocking. I was suspecting something along the lines of the truth though.

This review may have sounded a little harsh, but really, I was comparing it with Ender’s Game the whole time (which is in its own league entirely). I actually LOVED Across the Universe. Beth Revis employs an alternating first person perspective to bring to life a story that transcends time, space, and most YA: a starship romance plagued by the chilling threat of a murderer among the passengers, this is a book that no one should pass up. 

Thanks for reading this long winded review if you have – and if you haven’t, I don’t blame you, but I’d like to hear all your thoughts on this question:

Is romance a defining factor of YA? If so, why, and if not, why is it so prevalent?


Across the Universe Official Website | Across the Universe at Penguin AUS |