Across the Universe (2011) A Sci-Fi Thriller

Across the Universe is the first Sci-Fi thriller I’ve ever read. It’s also a YA novel and the first in a trilogy. Luckily it’s not the type of series beginning without a proper ending. There are open questions but the mystery is resolved, the perpetrator is caught.

Amy follows her parents on a mission to a planet that is three hundred years away from Earth. Her parents are part of a project crew needed to terraform Centauri-Earth. They have agreed to board the spaceship Godspeed and to be cyrogenically frozen. Three hundred years in the future they will be unfrozen. Amy didn’t have to follow her parents. They gave her a choice: she could stay with her grandparents and her boyfriend or travel to a new planet with her parents. Her love for her parents is stronger than anything else and she accepts to be frozen. The description of this is actually extremely well done. I could almost feel the ice in my veins.

Fifty years before they should land, someone brutally unplugs Amy. Luckily Elder, the future leader of Godspeed, Eldest’s heir, finds her in time. He’s fascinated by Amy, who is a redhead with translucent white skin and green eyes. Nobody looks like Amy on Godspeed. Everyone looks exactly the same: olive skin, dark eyes, brown hair, tall and strong. Eldest, the current leader, is far less thrilled. He’d like to open a hatch and throw Amy into space. He thinks that having someone on board who looks so different, who knows what it was like on earth, poses a huge threat to peace and stability on Godspeed.

Amy and Elder find out that Amy’s attempted murder probably was a mistake. Someone is targeting the crew of the project, which means Amy’s parents are in danger.

The plot is gripping enough but that wasn’t what I liked about this book. What I liked was the world Beth Revis created. The spaceship Godspeed is like a snow globe. I happen to love snow globes, those mini-worlds inside of glass bubbles filled with water. So naturally, I loved the setting. Godspeed has many layers and is like a replica of the earth. While there are no seasons, there’s still weather; they have rain and wind and they grow plants and have cattle.

For those who were born aboard Godspeed their environment poses no problem, but for Amy the ship is claustrophobic. She knows that the stars on the ship’s ceiling are fake. When they discover that there is a hidden window which allows to look out into space, things become dramatic. People are only docile and agreeing to work like slaves because they know nothing else. But once they would realize how vast the world is outside of the ship, things could change. We soon understand that Godspeed is not so much peaceful but totalitarian.

Amy and Elder try to find out who wants to kill the frozen crew members and they try to make sense of many inconsistencies. Someone, for example, has changed the books on Earth’s history. Facts are distorted and used to manipulate people.

I enjoyed this novel. I loved the setting, I thought the book had many thought-provoking elements, the plot was suspenseful, and Beth Revis has a knack for descriptions. There’s a love story but it’s not too romantic. The character’s are a bit flat and Amy thinks a few silly things, but I didn’t mind. I read this as highly entertaining guilty pleasure. Plus it’s an interesting genre mix that works really well. A bit like a locked room mystery set in space.

18 thoughts on “Across the Universe (2011) A Sci-Fi Thriller

  1. I have read a lot of science fiction, especially when I was younger.

    One thing that strikes me about the plot description is that this sounds like some of the older science novels and less like most Young Adult that I have been hearing about. The description of the ship, the nature of the mission and the characters descriptions give me that impression.

    The best science fiction is about ideas and characters and it seems like this book is about both.

  2. Probably not for me. The premise sounds interesting but I hesitate on the idea that Amy looks different. I’m wondering if this is going to become clichéd down the line, in another book.

  3. Sounds like a fascinating read. The ship Godspeed seems like a metaphor / warning for life here on earth also. “People are only docile and agreeing to work like slaves because they know nothing else. But once they would realize how vast the world is outside of the ship, things could change. We soon understand that Godspeed is not so much peaceful but totalitarian.”

    Terrific review, Caroline. Do you think you’ll read the other books in the series?

    • Thanks, Jackie. I might read the others, I’d be interested to know what happens next.
      Obviously we know who tried to kill Amy but there are still a lot of unresolved problems. I was surprised this didn’t get as many reviews as Divergent for example.

  4. I love thrillers, but I am not one to pick up Sci Fi novels very often–maybe a YA novel would be the way to go–sometimes sci fi books tend to be massive undertakings. I do know I like locked room mysteries–I am trying to come up with one to read for my vintage mystery bingo I am doing–have to find a vintage book though (written before 1960). You always find such interesting YA novels!

    • This was different as far as YA novels go. And not a massive undertaking for a sci-fi novel. Agatha Christie has written quite a few locked room mysteries, hasn’t she? I can’t think of any vintage mystery.

  5. It’s good to read outside our comfort zones. 🙂 It sounds as though there is plenty of scope for the next two novels in the series to develop. Sometimes I think that I read too much about the past and not enough about what might happen in the future. I think that with the way the world is going we had better start seriously thinking about possible dystopian futures.

    • I’ve read a lot of dystopian novels in the last two years but didn’t review them all. Some are so interesting.
      I’m sure you’d find Sarah hall’s The Carhullan Army very interesting. It’s on the literaray end of the dystopian genre. And she’s a great writer, short stories and novels.

      I’ve been told I have to read The Road and I might do that soon.
      But it can be despressing as things on our planet are really not that great.

  6. Everyone I’ve visited in the blogworld today has been reading sci-fi – how about that? Which does leave a slightly tricky problem about commenting as I’m not a reader of the genre myself. I have nothing against it in theory – just always seem to pick up books about the world we actually live in. It doesn’t draw me in as much as some other situations do. But it’s always great to enjoy the first book in a series – I do love the sense of feeling more guaranteed pleasure ahead.

  7. Interesting book and a wonderful review, Caroline! I didn’t know that there were YA sci-fi books! Like pearlsandprose, I also remembered the movie with the Beatles music. (I loved that movie). Nice to know that Beth Revis’ prose evokes the cold very well and the story is quite interesting. I will look for it. Nice to know that it is a trilogy.

    • How did I miss this comment! Thanks, Vishy.
      I know this is a book you would like. And I’m glad you liked the movie although it has nothing to do with it. Three years later, and I’ve still not finished watching my DVD. 🙂

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