Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: Across the Universe

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (Across the Universe #1)
Beth Revis
Young Adult/Dystopian
398 pages
Available Now

With one decision Amy changes her entire future. A future that now will extend far beyond a normal lifetime. Along with her parents, Amy agrees to be cryogenically frozen for 300 years onboard a ship destined for a new planet thought to be hospitable to human life. She is supposed to wake up with her parents to a new and hopeful future, but when her awakening finally comes, nothing is what she expected.

Amy is brutally unfrozen years ahead of schedule, and if Elder, a young man about her age aboard the ship, hadn't found her thrashing around in her clear box, she would have drowned in the cryo liquid. Once fully thawed and aware of her surroundings, Amy is startled by the way of life for people on the Godspeed. Shockingly, they seem to be merely drones, lacking the ability to think for themselves and meekly following the orders of Eldest, the leader and one responsible for all those onboard.

When others of the cryogenically frozen are unplugged and left to their deaths as Amy was, she and Elder begin searching for a killer in their midst, and in doing so, learn long hidden secrets about the ship itself, the history of the people living on it, and the motivations of those in charge.

Across the Universe is a story that's quietly compelling, one where we find ourselves undeniably intrigued by the subtle nuances of the characters and their expansive yet incredibly claustrophobic environment, drawn in slowly and carefully as a startling world unfolds page to page. The subdued quality of this tale is unnerving in a positive way, leaving us feeling as though we're wading through a viscous liquid while reading–the movements of the characters around us slow and measured, their minds seeming to operate on a more simplistic level as everyone attends to their required tasks with a complacency we and Amy don't understand as we struggle to run away and find something familiar. Every quiet whoosh, whir, and click made by the Godspeed causes us to jump, our nerves on edge as a result of the stifling calm, and we wait anxiously to learn the secrets the ship keeps hidden within her cool metal walls with only the sounds of our churning thoughts for company.

Both Amy and Elder are likeable characters, though a potent and unbreakable connection to either of them never truly forms. They hold our interest but don't necessarily haunt our waking thoughts or our dreams as some other characters do, the true strength of this novel lying in the mystery element surrounding Amy and the others' untimely thawings and the rather profound questions this futuristic society raises with regard to human nature. The romance between our two protagonists is a bit disappointing, perhaps due in part to the cover design and back cover excerpts that lead us to believe their connection will be a more vital aspect of the story, whereas it could have been left out entirely and been an equally successful tale.

Though Amy and Elder leave just a little to be desired, Eldest is an utterly fascinating character, a man who acts with the unwavering belief he's doing what's best for those under his care, and with every revelation we question whether he is more worthy of our pity for his flawed logic, or our revulsion at his inability to see he has stripped his people of everything that makes them individuals, allowing his job as leader to be free of emotional conflict and discord and defined instead by a numb pleasantness, blind capitulation, and sanctioned productivity. Even more interesting is that because Eldest lacks the loud, boisterous speeches professing the merits of his villainy and the violent confrontations we expect of those who do evil, we are able to better identify with him and more easily understand the reasons behind his decisions (though we may vehemently disagree with him), his quiet conniving an insidious brand of corruption that more deeply shocks us than any straightforward, frontal attack ever could.

Overall, Across the Universe is an engrossing read, one that lulls a bit after the opening scene with Amy's freezing, but then gradually consumes us as we flip back and forth between the minds of Amy and Elder, attempting to solve a mystery and trying desperately to understand a very alien way of life.

Rating 4/5


  1. I've heard so much about this one, and it sounds very different from your run-of-the-mill YA book these days. I can't wait to read it for myself! Thanks for the review, Jenny!

  2. Nice review! I love the futuristic talk and all the description. I though she did a great job of showing us a good future. And I agree, it need more romance or passion between the characters.

  3. Isn't that opening scene scary! I loved this book and so glad you enjoyed it. I can't wait to see how Elder and Amy grow in the next installment :)

  4. It makes me glad to see so many positive reviews of the book. I recently bought the book and fell in love with the cover. Now I am looking forward to reading it soon. It seems like refreshing change from the usual YA novels.

  5. Great review! Spaceship/space novels usually don't interest me much, because I FEEL claustrophobic when I think about being stuck on a ship. Same thing with boat cabins. Its weird, but its true. I like the sound of this one though. It seems to have the potential to be a great book.


  6. I haven't read this one yet but I know Melissa found it a little disappointing. Eldest sounds like a really intriguing character so I'm looking forward to reading about him since the romance isn't as great as it's been made out to be.

  7. I felt the same way about the romance, just wasn't a vital part of the story. I almost got the sense when I was reading it that the publisher/editor may have encouraged the author to add that romantic catch phrase that comes near the end of the book. Sometimes I think publishers feel like if a book doesn't have romance no one will want to read it.
    And you hit on the nail on the head with the reasons Eldest was such a fascinating character. I love when the bad guys are so well developed we can understand their motives.
    Great review Jenny!

  8. Awesome review!! (:
    I've heard nothing but good things about this book. and I love the cover. (: though, i'm scared it wont be as good for me because I tend to not things most people do :( But across the universe sounds quite amazing =D

  9. Great review! The book hasn't arrived yet, but I cannot wait to read it. Glad to hear about such great characters and it sounds like a page turner. ;)

  10. I love what you said about Eldest. Awesome point. I did really want to know more about him. I realllly wanted to know more about the other Elder.

  11. Great review hon! Glad you enjoyed it! I cant wait for the sequel! =D

  12. Great Review! This is one of those that might end up on the list. I have heard often that the romance seems like it was forced in by someone outside the author but the story itself is fantastic.

  13. Brilliant review, Jenny! I gave it a bit lower because I felt that the relationship aspect really left something to be desired, but the world-building was phenomenal, eh? Fabulous thoughts :)

  14. I've read mixed reviews for this one : it's either a hate or a love apparently .. I look forward to read it =)
    Thanks for your review Jenny !!

  15. This sounds like a fun books. Several reviews have downplayed the romance side of it. Too bad. I love a good romance done well or books with hardly any romance. But a book with romance that flops is more problematic.

  16. I didn't know that this was part of a planned trilogy when I first finished ATU. I was happy with the ending, since the romance had kind of been in Elder's head (as Amy was still in love with her old boyfriend). It was a will they/won't they type of ending that still had hope for the best. Since there wasn't a lot of romance in the book, I had no problem with not getting a definitive HEA. Now that I know there are two more books... I worry a little. I had enjoyed seeing how the world on the ship had changed so drastically and would want to see more of how those on board cope with an entirely new reality. I don't want the next books to be mainly about the romance.

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  17. Natalie - I thought this one was very different from a lot of the YA I'd read recently, so it was great in that respect!

    Savy - I loved the futuristic world as well, I just wish the romance was either bumped up in intensity or left out altogether.

    Nic - It was very disturbing, after seeing both my parents go through it, I'm not sure I could have climbed in that box.

    Misha - I adore the cover, and it's reversible which is even cooler:) Can't wait to see what you think of it!

    Amateur - I feel really claustrophobic just thinking about it as well, but that just added to the overall uneasiness of the story which worked really well I think:)

    Zahida - The world is very cool as is the whole Elder/Eldest concept and their style of governing, it was just the romance that didn't work for me.

    Angelique - Exactly! I'm fine with no romance in a YA, I'd prefer that to a romance that feels forced.

    Book Pages - It's worth a read for sure, and we all react differently which is what makes reviewing fun:) I know several people who didn't care for this one, so you wouldn't be alone if you end up not caring for it.

    Nina - After the first 70 pages it picks up, but the beginning does lull a little until Amy is awakened.

    Juju - thank you! I would have liked to have known more about the other Elder as well:) Maybe in the next book?

    Larissa - I'm looking forward to the sequel as well!

    Felicia - That's exactly what it feels like, but barring that flaw, I really enjoyed it.

    Melissa - Yes it did, but I agree with you on the world building. I especially enjoyed the altered elements of our own history:)

    Elodie - I think it's always a love or hate situation with books that get a ton of hype like this one:) I enjoyed it, I just wanted a little more (or less) from Amy and Elder in their relationship.

    Alison - Yes, this romance was just kind of stuck in there and wasn't necessary to the story. Maybe it will work better in the next 2 books, but everything else I loved:)

    Jennifer - I didn't mind the ending either and didn't realize there were additional books until after I finished. There's still a lot I want to know about the world, so I look forward to seeing what she'll do with the sequels:)

  18. ohhh I loved that review. I just got this one and I saw a few neg. reviews last week for it which had me thinking uh-oh did I waste my money? :D Now Im off to read it...!!

  19. I need to give this one another try. I started it earlier in the month, but lost interest.

    I've read that before in other reviews for this one, that the romance doesn't quite develop into something the book cover hints at. I think that is one reason why I lost motivation, but I do have to say your description of Eldest is surprising and intriguing. Thanks Jenny.

  20. Great review, Jenny! I feel the same way about this book! I was completely blown away by the freezing scene too. I was totally cringing during the whole thing. I agree that Eldest and Amy's relationship left something to be desired as well. It definitely wasn't all-consuming!

  21. Still have not read this one, but will eventually. Based on all the review it sounds very special. Great review!

  22. Tina - Thank you! I don't think you wasted your money, just don't go in expecting an epic romance like I did and you won't be disappointed with it (at least I hope not:)

    Missie - It took me a while to get into as well, especially due to Amy being frozen for the first 75 pages, but I was really intrigued once she woke up:)

    Christina - Thanks! I was cringing during that scene too, I don't think I could have gone through with it. Maybe the romance will be more intense in the next book:)

    Jan - Thank you! Hope you give it a try:)

  23. It was interesting. I was curious as to where the author would have taken this one if it was an adult book rather than YA. Think of how dark this book could have been. I really want to read that version! :)

  24. I like what you said about Eldest, too. He's a very intriguing character. In his own demented way he's trying to help the people aboard Godspeed. The ship is all he's ever known. I was surprised there was little romance between Amy and Elder as the cover suggests. I can see why there wasn't. Amy trying to figure out who unfroze her and the ship. She has little time for romance. I thought the opening was spectacular, but then it slowed down. I was glad it picked up. I'm looking forward to the second book!

  25. I have read so many reviews, and I do confess that I am very tempted by this book

  26. Melissa - I think this would have made for a very interesting adult book, especially with Eldest and his ideas on how the ship should be run. I liked this story even without that extra darkness, I just wish the romance had been left out or intensified.

    Julie - I look forward to the second book 2, especially now that things will be changing onboard:)

    Blodeuedd - I enjoyed it, I think it's definitely worth a read!

  27. I expected that there would be a lot more romance but didnt mind that it wasn't a key part of the story. Great review Jenny!

  28. I have read quite a variety of reviews for this book, all saying something different. It definitely sounds like a non-typical YA book which intrigues me the most. Phenomenal review Jenny!!

  29. Really looking forward to reading this book! It's too bad that the romance seems kinda thrown in there. Hopefully, it'll grow and become more important in the later books, but I'm more excited about the sci fi/mystery aspect. Thanks for the review as always, Jenny!

  30. Jenny - I just almost wish it wasn't there at all since there really wasn't much to it. I don't mind when there's no romance or a strong romance, I just don't care for a mediocre romance when there's a great story around it.

    Tara - Definitely non-typical, I'd be interested to see what you think!

    Rummanah - I feel like it probably will grow, but the mystery and the world was the most interesting part for me:)

  31. I'm just about to start reading this one! I've read that the relationship aspect isn't all that it might have been in a couple of reviews now, and that the story is slow in parts, so I'll be prepared for that!

    I read the opening chapter a while back, and loved it!

    Wonderful review, as always. :)

  32. Jenny,

    I've heard many good things about "Across the Universe" and your review doesn't disappoint! Thanks for sharing your thoughts :) I love reading your reviews; you always know what to say without giving any spoilers. Keep up the GREAT work!


  33. I just finished reading this last night Jenny! I am sorry that you you desired more from Amy and Elder, I really liked them! But all in all I agree with your review!

  34. Leanna - Oh can't wait to read your thoughts!

    Diana - Thank you:) I try to avoid spoilers whenever possible!

    Avery - I liked them as well, I just think I expected more of a romance based on all the marketing! I'm looking forward to more of them in the next book:)

  35. Gah, this just sounds fantastic! Can't wait to read it. I know I'm going to like Eldest as a villain from your description; it sounds like he's not just your typical antagonist.

  36. Glad you enjoyed this one! I think I'm going to get the audio for this one! :D

  37. Oh, so sorry to hear the romance aspect was a bit lacking, but hopefully it will develop more in the next books. I must say I absolutely cannot wait to read this book and am so glad to see your stamp of approval of it :) It definitely sounds like something unique that hasn't been done in YA fiction yet, so will be ordering my copy as soon as pay day arrives :D Fantastic review as always Jenny - your reviews always make me want to grab the book from the screen just to experience what you have :D

  38. I really wish this book would hurry up and be released in the UK. I am getting desperate!

    Awesome review, and look at all these wonderful comments too!

  39. I'm conflicted about this book. On one hand it sounds like an interesting premise, but on the other hand I don't like what you said about the characters and romance. I've heard that complaint before and it's one that would definitely affect my enjoyment. I think I'm going to wait until all of the books in the series are published. Maybe the characters and their relationship will improve.

  40. Oh, I just read Small's comment. This is a series. I think I'll wait, too. I'm not a sci-fi fan though this doesn't sound too bad. But, well, I'll admit it, I'm too damn impatient. I don't like not having the whole series. I was biting my nails until I got to read Darkest Mercy and I'm still kind of ticked that Iron Queen has a sequel.

    But that was a great review Jenny! Best one I've read so far, though I'm feeling a little choky right now, clawing at my throat when you described the girl almost drowning. I may have to take a pill before I read this one! Now I can't get my mind off of it. AACK!


  41. This is on my Christmas wishlist! I did mean to get it during the summer but they didn't have it in the bookshop and, well, you know how it goes. Ooh, I love worldbuilding and suspense kills me. And tbh I can probably deal with a weakish character connection if the worldbuilding is there. Awesome review :)