Monday, June 25, 2012

Across the Universe

By Beth Revis
 ★ ★ ★ ☆

Four Things I Liked About Across the Universe:
1. Vibrant, imaginative future world
2. Future humans: Will time and technological advancement necessarily change us for the better?
3. Characters
4. Stars

Across the Universe is yet another book I’ve been meaning to read for a while but never got around to actually procuring. Thank you public library. One benefit of being home for the summer: easy access to free books. Not that there’s any dearth of books on a college campus; there’s just a significant lack of YA offerings. Unsurprisingly.

In Across the Universe, Revis imagines a not-too-distant present in which we are capable of cryogenically preserving human life and the world 300 years into the future when a spaceship’s cargo hold full of experts who volunteered to settle a new planet deemed habitable by NASA are scheduled to be re-animated. Amy and her family are part of this group. But when Amy is wakened alone and 50 years ahead of schedule, it becomes clear that all has not gone according to plan on the spaceship Godspeed. Together with Elder, rebellious leader-in-training, Amy discovers just how many secrets can be hidden aboard a sealed ship.

Revis’ imagining of a ship 300 years in our future rings surprisingly realistic. I don’t know by what criteria one could judge such things as “realistic” verses “off base” but somehow the world of Across the Universe just felt really…plausible. I had no qualms about buying into her fiction (unlike, for example, the fiction of Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star); I stepped readily into the world of Godspeed, happy to observe with curiosity and an open mind.

A miniscule pocket of human life in the vast foreignness of outer space, the world aboard Godspeed is a foreign world unto itself. Revis fills it with customs, accents, advancements, and histories detailed enough to be convincing yet exotic enough to be fascinating. It was easy to see how, given the chain events that had unfurled between the ship’s departure from Earth and Amy’s waking, Godspeed’s society and leadership would have evolved the way it did – making humanity’s classic mistakes adapted by a whole new context and under all-new conditions. It was interesting to look at Earth’s history and beliefs through the eyes of humans who considered themselves far removed (in the most literal way, as well as figurative) and advanced from it. I also enjoyed just the act of imagining Revis’ futuristic world in my mind – how the ship would look and how it would contain imitations of cities and farmland – something she made very easy. The world of Across the Universe was also a colorful one, from Amy’s vibrant red hair (I couldn’t help but picture this Youtuber) to Harley’s paintings to the monoethnic skin tone of Godspeed’s people. Revis’ characters were alluring and interesting, likable even when they were flawed, and above all very, very human.

A strange and beautiful novel. I already have the sequel on hold at the library.

Books Read This Year: 49
Top 100 Progress: 48/100

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