Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, was published in 2011. An internet search for “a romance set in the future” lead me to it. I borrowed it from the Seattle Public Library.
Above the book’s title is the question: “What does it take to survive aboard a spaceship fueled by lies?”
Amy is a teenage girl. She and her parents are among the people cryogenically frozen aboard Godspeed, the largest human spaceship ever built. Godspeed is sent on a 301-year journey from Sol-Earth to a largely unknown planet named Centauri-Earth.
Elder is a teenage boy. He is in training to become the next generation’s Eldest, the leader of the Godspeed crew. Some time before Elder was born, a plague broke out that reduced the crew of Godspeed from over 3,000 to around 700. Now, in Elder’s time, the crew has repopulated itself to around 2,000. They are 49 years, 266 days away from Centauri-Earth.
Elder discovers a schematic diagram of Godspeed. The diagram is divided into two sections: “Before Plague” and “After Plague”. He learns that, after the plague, the ship had been altered. Sections had been renamed and floors had been redesigned. A lower section had been closed off and left blank in the diagram. There was no Eldest before the plague.
Elder finds a way into the closed-off section. There, he finds cryogenically frozen people. Why are there frozen people aboard Godspeed, and why do they have more than one race? (Difference is the first cause of discord, according to Eldest.) In chamber 42, he sees a beautiful girl, about his age. She has amazing red hair. Elder has never seen red hair before, except in historic documents.
The book’s chapters alternate between Amy and Elder. Amy has dreams that someone is trying to open her chamber. Elder hears a cryo alarm.
Someone has awoken Amy, 50 years early. Whoever it was did the reanimation incorrectly. It should have killed her, but she survives. It begins to look as if someone deliberately tried to kill Amy. But why? She is, after all, “nonessential cargo”.
Across the Universe surprised me. I didn’t have high hopes for it – maybe it was the unimaginative title, maybe it was the way it was presented (“a teen romance in space!”). When I picked it up at the library, I was expecting to be borrowing a trade paperback. I found, instead, a 398-page hardcover.
There is a lot going on in Across the Universe, and yet it is a quick read. It piles mystery upon mystery. Why are there frozen people on board? Who is killing them, and why? Why is this happening now? What exactly happened during the plague to change everything? It sets these mysteries against a dystopian society. In the middle of all this are two teenagers, with two centuries’ worth of differences, falling in love.
I have a couple of nits to pick with the logic of the story (and I won’t go into details) but I loved this book. I loved it a lot. It had good character descriptions, and many interesting plot twists. I wanted to learn the solutions to the mysteries (and I didn’t guess any of the solutions) and, at the same time, I wanted the story to keep going.
Across the Universe is a book I will recommend to fans of science fiction, mysteries, YA novels, or any combination of these.
The one downside to this book is the earworm in my head whenever I saw the title.
- A romance set in the future