Selfishness. A human malady that can strike anytime, anywhere. But it is truly universal in scope when it festers in the mind of a teenage boy on a spaceship that's been hurtling through the galaxy for hundreds of years. Yes, author Beth Revis has a stellar imagination. Her sci-fi canon blasts off with spectacular imagery as she creates an entire world down to the last detail aboard the vessel, Godspeed. In her debut work, Across the Universe what anchors the story through this never-before-seen terrain is the motivations of its lead characters. A guy so desperate to be with the girl of his dreams that nothing will stand in his way, not even a cryonic suspension chamber, and a girl trying to salvage a life she was not meant to have.
Our heroine, Amy, is frozen in a capsule before being stored in a compartment on Godspeed along with the immobilized bodies of her parents. The process is cringe-inducing, bordering on barbaric. A tube is shoved down her throat and she is submerged in a tank filled with ultra-frigid preservation fluid. She is literally suffocated to sleep. Her terror as she claws at the confines of her glass prison is palpable in the extreme. What she endures is supposed to be worth the trauma - a reanimation when Godspeed reaches its new planetary destination - in 300 years.
However, the architect of this grand design did not count teenage infatuation into the equation. Elder is a young guy destined to rule the inhabitants of the ship. He's in training, but seems like he can never live up to the expectations of the current leader, the appropriately named, Eldest. They are thrown into a tizzy when Amy is mysteriously broken out of her capsule and almost dies. On-board pandemonium ensues.
But who are these minions Eldest is lording it over? The worker drones who keep the ship on course. They even have an artificial farming area to grow food. They've been doing this for generations. Yes, generations. They've become mechanized themselves. They're told when to breed, when to eat, when to speak. Those showing signs of an independent streak are placed in the hospital ward and deemed mentally ill. It is certainly not an open, free society.
Needless to say, Elder is forcibly attracted to Amy. She is the only girl on Godspeed his age. At first, Amy doesn't reciprocate his feelings to the same degree. She's distraught on being awakened 50 years before her parents. She fears that she will never see them alive again. She doesn't know who to trust. Who woke her up? And why?
There are many strange occurrences in this metallic city in the sky. The water system is tainted with medication to keep its inhabitants docile and obedient. Men and women engage in intimate relations in public. The star-studded sky is, for the most part, hidden from view while a false sun separates night from day by an over-sized light bulb. And things aren't exactly going according to plan. Is the ship on course? Is it on track to reach its final destination according to its scheduled time frame?
Issued as an on-going series, Across the Universe ends with a shocking betrayal. It will be interesting to see how the established relationships are affected moving forward. Will cataclysmic breaches be overcome? Will new leadership prevail? Will festering wounds be put aside so that all can work together in order to reach a common goal?
Overall, human frailty is not limited to the confines of Earth.
Kudos, as well, to the design team that crafted the book cover. It is exceptional and conveys the message of the ill-fated love story and its deep space setting in one eye-pleasing image. The full scale of Revis' vision is articulated in this breathtaking, attention-getting package.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis is available for $17.99 at Amazon.com and at BethRevis.com.
Thank you to Jenbigheart for recommending this book. Follow her fantastic book blog and Twitter posts.
Review copy provided by Valley Community Library.