Sci-Fi Novel Could Be Next Hunger Games

What does it take to survive aboard a spaceship fueled by lies?
The tagline is cheesy. The book itself? Awesome beyond words. Across the Universe by Beth Revis will no doubt be the next Hunger Games. Let me be the first one to say it since my thunder was stolen on the whole Hunger Gamesseries by not making such a statement after I was among the first to read it in summer of 2009. Not that I’m holding a grudge.

Across the Universe takes you on an extraterrestrial journey through the eyes of the two main characters Elder and Amy. The story begins with an “alternative” future in which the U.S.’s economy is a mess and natural resources are close to total depletion (not too far off from where we are now, truthfully). This bleak reality is interrupted by the discovery of Centauri-Earth, a planet similar to Earth in atmosphere, flora and fauna according to samples collected by space probes.

With the help and funding of the Financial Resource Exchange, the U.S. commissions a ship to be built in order to explore this far off oasis. Rocket scientists build Godspeed, a mega-ship equipped for the 300 year long journey it takes to get to Centauri-Earth, as well as 100 cryogenically frozen scientists and military personnel.

This leads us to the opening of Across the Universe. Amy Martin is the daughter of a geneticist mother and military father who have been chosen to board Godspeed. The cryo process is described as Amy witnesses her mother drown in the blue liquid that will freeze her for 300 years. Before her father follows suit, he cautions her to not go with them out of obligation, since he’d rather she live out the rest of her life on Earth.

After her father is sealed within his own icy box, Amy makes a choice she soon questions. As the workers stick her with IVs and tubing she overhears them say the ship won’t leave for another year. She panics, but it’s too late. She’s frozen for the next 301 years.

Jumping into the future 250 years, the ship is en route to Centauri-Earth. After centuries of close bloodlines, the 2,312 people on Godspeed are mono-ethnic and subservient to their leader named Eldest. Their form of government and leadership was put into place after an elusively mentioned plague. Next in line to rule is 16-year-old Elder who is being trained on how to run the ship early since his predecessor could not complete his training under mysterious circumstances.

While exploring, Elder learns about a storage hold in the belly of the ship. He discovers the 100 frozen bodies inside and notices that a certain box with its glass covering has been pulled aside from the rest. Amy’s red hair and green eyes intrigue him as he has never seen such a diverse human before.

Elder leaves the storage unit in search of answers but is faced with more questions instead. Then an alarm goes off, alerting Eldest and the onboard doctor. Amy’s box has been unplugged and she has woken up 50 years too early.

While she was frozen, we get glimpses into her inner-psyche thanks to the back-and-forth narration of the chapters between Amy and Elder’s perspective. It turns out that the mind doesn’t black out as it would under anesthetics. Amy’s mind was suspended in a dreamlike state, tortured without knowing how long it had been since she was first frozen.

After waking up, she is bombarded with how different the people of the ship are from the humans she knew from Sol-Earth, what earth is now referred to in comparison to Centauri-Earth. Besides the strange behaviors of these mono-ethnic ship dwellers, Amy notices many flaws in the hierarchy and Eldest’s leadership.

Across the Universe does more than a few 180 flips in plot line. This is what makes this sci-fi thriller so enthralling. The novel also poses a multitude of philosophical questions about life, death and the universe. To put it simply, each twist and question was amplified in my head with its own Inception BWONG.

How does Amy deal with her ice-shattering (forgive the pun) change in circumstances? Will Eldest find the answers to the ship’s mysterious inner-workings (including the story behind the plague)? Most importantly, do these two ever hook up?

Thankfully, Across the Universe cannot be reduced to a simple love story. It encompasses so much more. It zooms in on a ship lost in the vastness of the universe and details how human society is left to develop in complete isolation; whether it’s for the better or worst is up to the reader to decide.

After marathon reading this novel, I can safely say that the ending was well worth the rollercoaster and whodunit puzzles it takes to get there. I was haunted in the best possible way. The best part, however, is that Across the Universe’s end flows seamlessly into its sequel’s beginning. A Million Suns meets any and all expectations, and I’m waiting in anticipation for the third book of the trilogy to arrive via FedEx on Jan. 15, 2013.

Even if sci-fi is not your jam, take a chance on this book. And if you love it like I think you will, all I ask is that you remember who told you about this great series first when it inevitably blows up, gets a movie deal and has pre-teen girls wearing shirts with Elder’s face screen-printed on it. You’re welcome.

Critic’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Amanda Sieradzki can be reached at asieradzki@spartans.ut.edu

1 comment

  1. This actually sounds a whole lot like a Hugh Howey book published in 2010 called Half Way Home. In that book, a ship of colonists in cryo leaves to colonize a planet and they age as they travel and they are trained in certain jobs as they sleep and are supposed to wake up as adults. They end up being woken up too early as teenagers and have to learn to survive on their own.


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