Across the Universe Trilogy (Book 1)
By Beth Revis
Available now from Penguin Razorbill
Part of the Breathless Reads tour
"An unforgettable opening scene . . . " - Kirkus Reviews, starred
"Unforgettable" must be code for "will appear in your nightmares for the next week." In the opening of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, Amy and her parents are cryogenically frozen in order to survive the Godspeed's 300 year journey to Centauri-Earth. If you, like me, dislike medical situations, then this whole sequence will be high octane nightmare fuel. Perhaps the most famous title in the SF genre is "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." All of Amy's initial chapters emphasize why that title resonates when she discovers that she can still dream, the entire time she's frozen. Then she wakes up after someone attempts to murder her by unplugging her tank. She wakes up to a ship full of more subtle scariness.
Elder, the male protagonist and future leader of the Godspeed, finds Amy and rescues her. Amy's reactions help him discover things that are off about the ship, but he was already beginning to question Eldest, the current leader, more. At the beginning, Eldest tells him the first two of three causes of discord: difference and lack of central leadership. (I was greatly surprised that the third wasn't sex, but I don't trust what Eldest says anyway.) Differences is suppressed on the Goodspeed, down to everyone being of the same ethnicity. Now, I highly doubt everyone who got on the ship was the same ethnicity. And over centuries you can't keep everyone looking alike naturally. Once upon a time, all humans did have brown hair, brown eyes, and dark skin. Then things changed. One baby was born with a mutated OCA2 gene, resulting in blue eyes. Basically, I kept reading references to monoethnicity and thinking, "What happens to the mutated babies?!"
Of the many reviews I've read about ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, few give credit to just how creepy Beth Revis can be. This books is terrifying.
A few elements of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE were less compelling. The murderer was fairly obvious. But I really enjoyed the claustrophobic worldbuilding. I did wonder about the people on the Shippers' Level, but A MILLION SUNS picks up that plot thread. The people on the Feeders' Level did deserve their own book.
Fans of science fiction and dystopias both should enjoy ACROSS THE UNIVERSE as long as they have strong stomachs.