Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: YA – Science Fiction – Dystopia
Series: Across the Universe #1
Publisher: Penguin Books
“If my life on Earth must end, let it end with a promise. Let it end with hope.”
Despite the mixed reviews, I succumbed to buying Across the Universe by Beth Revis due to the spectacular looking book cover and captivating summary. Although all the elements of a promising novel were present – a dystopian mystery set on board a spaceship during the longest space voyage to have ever existed, with a love story added in for good measure – the story never developed into the greatness I expected it to be. I wanted to love this but the repetitiveness of the story in combination with weak characters, ruined it for me.
That will teach me for not listening to my fellow book bloggers.
Following in the footsteps of her parents, Amy leaves behind the life she loves on Earth to be taken to a planet 300 years distance away. Cryogenically frozen in her body, she balances between being conscious and asleep until someone unfreezes her fifty years before she is supposed to be. Amy’s survival of her body’s thawing appears to be a fluke, and as she tries to cope with a society she doesn’t recognize or understand more people are being improperly unfrozen and murdered. There’s a killer on the ship and hiding is impossible. Who can Amy trust amidst the strangers and why did they wake her up?
Across the Universe was one of those stories that put me on a rollercoaster of emotions but not necessarily all in a good way. There were a few things that intrigued me, and then there were parts that caused me to cringe at the amount of daftness our main characters seemed to display. The most surprising element of the story was the description of the technological parts of the cryogenic process and the ship that immediately contributed to the science fiction feeling.
The whole ordeal of becoming frozen was detailed to the point that I experienced a tightness in my chest that can be best described as a sense of panic gripping me. It pressed the right kind of buttons for me to become captivated. The structure of the spaceship was well thought out too. I especially liked how the passengers were able to transport from one level to another. It wasn’t a new idea but I thought it was cool nevertheless.
If the story was solemnly about technology, then yes, the elements were there and detailed and I would be done with my review. Unfortunately it wasn’t.
What was up with the characters?
There weren’t very many of them, and those we did have never burst from the page to become lively, unique characters I would have cared for. So much was left unfinished considering the extreme situation. The antagonist was exposed too quickly, too easily, giving the story the feeling of a failed attempt at a “whodunit”.
Elder’s arrogance and belief that he has a right to know everything immediately, aggravated me. He was disrespectful towards authority and dismissed all the rules. He was portrayed as a spoiled teenager who felt entitled to throw tantrums the minute he didn’t get what he wanted. His rebellion felt more like a teenager defying the rules set by his parents than the responsible character questioning the regime, thinking about the situation and the consequences of his actions that he was supposed to be.
His act of rebellion taught me a different lesson than what the author must have had in mind. The way it was dealt with, taught me it was okay to dismiss all kind of authority when you don’t agree; it taught me it was alright to ignore all the responsibilities and not think of the consequences as long as you get what you want. I understand that Revis tried to show us the problematic society and that the authority was corrupt, her message being to not blindly accept everything you’re being told by your superiors. However, the way Elder was portrayed, his youth and inexperience and the spoiled brat’s attitude, rubbed me in the wrong way. Needless to say he was my least favourite character.
Harley, on the other hand, was much more interesting than the protagonists and it saddened me he wasn’t more present. He seemed like a character with layers and I wanted to get to know him better. He questioned everything society threw at him, acting when he was confident it was the right thing to do. He was a strong character with real emotions, dealing with conflict in a thoughtful manner that it usually rendered me speechless each time his character reappeared. His story was tragic but beautiful all at once.
I’m also very confused about where the ROMANCE came from. Although Revis tried her best to make it reciprocal, it was obvious that she enforced a romance between her protagonists without listening to her characters as she wrote them.
I’m not sure how it started and how it developed but it was suddenly there without any building towards it. On some level, it portrayed the teenagers realistically, running after their hormones without any emotional connection and if that’s how Revis wanted them to come over to her readers, I wouldn’t have minded the “romance” as much. However, it bothered me that she wrote them in a way I had to believe they were “meant to be together”. It didn’t work for me, especially as it was one-sided and was more awkward than cute. If Revis had taken a different approach it could have worked but it felt unnatural in the end.
I haven’t started on how absurd it was they needed an entire book to discover the villain yet!
The way I saw it, there were three to five possibilities and three of them were villains in their own wicked way! The fact the plot took repetitive twists and voiced the same questions over and over again, was tiresome. The story didn’t seem to develop in any way.
I wasn’t much fan of the society either. In a strict sense, it was a proper dystopian novel with an organisation treating the people as a flock. If you disobeyed or showed signs of having a different opinion, you were quietly locked away on the mental ward of the hospital.
What bothered me was the level of “equality” that they strived for to the point it became racist. The people on board of the space ship all had the same physical characterisations: same skin, eye and hair colour: one big, happy family. The ideology: when everyone looks the same, there can’t be any argument so society wouldn’t get disturbed and all is well. Apparently, if we would look all the same, we wouldn’t have to deal with “bad” people such as thieves, murderers, kidnappers, rapists and so on. As if this type of “equality” would make a human’s nature “good”. It expressed a narrow-minded ideology from centuries ago that shows exactly why there are still problems in the world today.
When you take away the differences in a society, I can imagine that there would be less conflict as a result but that doesn’t automatically mean that everyone within said society thinks the same or shares the same opinions. In that way, Across the Universe’s society is a bit naïve as well.
Across the Universe ticks off all the boxes when it deals with fancy technological stuff that we expect from a science fiction novel. The mystery of a murderer running loose on a space ship would have been great if the characters had been given more depth and were worked out properly. The plot could have been less see-through and repetitive. All in all, there was a lot of potential with this book but it didn’t fully flourish and that’s a shame.
Did you enjoy Across the Universe? What did you think of the romance in this novel? Did you think the choice of character names was unique?
More books by Beth Revis:
Across the Universe series: