My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow- even if you're not a fan of traditional sci-fi fiction I'm sure that there's something in this book for everyone. This is a really good book, (plus it has a reversible cover with a full map of the ship inside which I thought was pretty cool!). The scary thing is that you can actually believe it really happening. Normally, I would not be attracted to space books, seeing them more as 'bloke's books', and I would be put off by all the gadgetry, politics and science talk. However, this is not the case with 'Across the Universe' which is easily followable, and all the futuristic gadgets like wireless communicators and gravity tubes are very believable and not confusing at all. The story is told from alternating points of view, switching between Amy and Elder's perspective, and this works really well, keeping the story going and keeping you interested.
I might be imagining it but I thought I picked up a couple of hat-tips/subtle references to other sci- fi greats. Amy is accidentally awoken from cryo cell number 42- a reference to 'A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy'? The answer to the ultimate question, of life the universe and everything? 42! And when the room that Amy is given is decribed as having a pattern of ivy leaves painted around the doorway, it immediately reminded me of the TV show Firefly (which I adore!). But when later we are also told that the room's former occupant was named Kayleigh and she loved tinkering with mechanical things, I was sure it was a nod to Firefly. There are possibly more references to Star Trek and others that I have missed.
Amy and her parents along with a hundred others are cryogenically frozen to travel on a spaceship bound for another planet. They are due to be awoken in 300 years on a new planet and a fresh start. Amy has to say goodbye to her boyfriend, her friends, her whole life, knowing that everyone else will be long dead when she next wakes up. You instantly feel for Amy knowing that this is such a difficult choice that she has to make.
There is a population recruited on board the spaceship, who are there to be caretakers in a way, there to keep the ship running, grow crops and keep a population of animals alive. Generations live and die on board the ship. The next voice we hear is Elder's. Elder has always lived within the walls of the ship, never seeing sky or breathing fresh air, and raised on recycled water, genetically modified food, and a censored education given to him by Eldest, the ships leader/tyrant. Elder has been told a version of their history- of plagues and rebellions, and re-organisations in the ruling of the citizens.
When Amy is mysteriously unfrozen (despite the majority of the population now being completely unaware of the existence of the frozen people), it turns into a story of secrets, lies, mystery and conspiracy. Elder is fascinated by Amy and wants to protect her, and this interaction between two people who are so different- have different ideas, different upbringings and experiences is what changes both their worlds, and provides the interest in the story. It's Amy's independent thinking and new opinions which drive home to Elder what life on the ship is really like. He suddenly sees life through her eyes, how wrong the oppressed subdued population on board ship really is.
There is an "oh" moment near the end of the story where all the secrets are revealed and everything suddenly makes sense. You realise why things are the way the are. The tyrant leader is not so evil after all, (or you can at least understand why he has done the things he has) and there had been a purpose behind all the odd things that had been happening. In a world where humanity is contained in such a small scale over such a long period of time, hard decicions have had to be made for the people's ultimate benefit, and the consequences of this really make you question what it is to be human, and what is the greater good. I don't want to reveal too much, but do want to say that this was really good, and I'm sure there is something for everyone in this story. A sci-fi dystopian thriller full of twists and turns with a bit of romance thrown in. I'm sure fans who usually read paranormal/ romance types will also like this. It is something a bit different from the vampire/angels/faeries/werewolves books flooding the shelves at the moment.
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The pretty cover :-) I had to get this edition because the UK paperback edition didn't have the stars in between the two faces- it was just plain white. I'm a sucker for the pretty covers!
The inside of the book jacket, showing Eldest's map of the ship, and explaining what the technology means.