Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
I've heard conflicting reviews on this book, and after reading it, I can see why. I'm conflicted. Beth Revis is a good story teller, weaving elements of sci-fi, romance, and mystery together into one cohesive plot that really makes you stop and think, could this happen? Would a world such as this really be a bad thing? I love stories that can give me that "wow" factor, and Across the Universe did. But at the same time I can see why some had a hard time with it.
The story is told in alternating points of view, from that of Amy, the girl who goes into the cryo-chamber and that of Elder, future leader of the world (inside the spaceship) where Amy wakes up. Using this alternating POV, we get to see what's happening while Amy is asleep, which is helpful. It also helps us when the mystery is presented because it allows us to see things that neither Amy or Elder can't. But at the same time, the double POV slows the story down immensely. Much of it is backstory and world building - in Elder's world (as we see how the ship/society works) and then in Amy's world (as we see her thoughts as to what her life was like before). Unfortunately all of this made the story drag. I wanted Amy to wake up already so that the story could begin - and she does - on page 70. Once Amy is thawed though, the book does take off, and as with any good mystery, I wanted to keep going until I had figured it all out.
There's another aspect to this book that I think will have people divided, and those are the plot holes and plausibility issues. The science in this book is really one where you have to just kind of take it in faith that it could happen.... someday. But looking at it from today's perspective (and as a scientist), I was cringing at some scenes. A lot of it seemed to be there just to elicit a "fear" or "shock" response in the reader because the why and the how of it all (the genetics and the breeding program) just didn't make a whole lot of sense. In fact sometimes it was downright laughable. There was also one central plot element that is completely wrong, and you don't need to know a whole lot about science (you just need to watch CSI) to figure it out. There were other plot holes, such as the presence of a very young girl who is injecting rabbits at one point (even though we're told early on that Elder is the youngest person on the ship), and there are loose ends that aren't tied up (like in the beginning a big deal is made of the fact that Amy and her family are frozen one year too early, yet this is never brought up again). There are other plausibility issues in the story too, but let me stop there because I think you get the picture. Looking back, I see so many areas where Revis could have avoided digging herself into a plausibility grave that I wonder how much effort she put into thinking things through. Granted, the world building was pretty good; I had an immediate sense of what the ship looked like and how it ran and I marveled at some of the technology just as Amy did. The premise of the whole story was phenomenal; I admire the idea itself. The characters were believable, and I felt emotionally caught up in everything that Amy was going through. It's just the delivery of the science that was off.
To put it in perspective, let's talk a little bit about another book/movie which I know you've all heard of - Jurassic Park. I love Jurassic Park. A couple years after it came out, I also read a book entitled, The Science Behind Jurassic Park, or How to Build a Dinosaur, by Rob DeSalle and David Lindley, in which JP is picked apart one nucleotide (or claw) at a time. I remember after reading this book that I felt a little let down. Not a lot, but a little. It takes a good imagination to figure out how to build a dinosaur, and keeping in mind that JP was written over 20 years ago, it was pretty darn inventive - even though the whole concept was a wash from the get-go. There were ways in which Crighton could have made JP more believable and in line with what is scientifically possible, BUT (and here is the big but) while the science in JP may have been lacking, the story itself dug at a theme that is at the core of humanity. Across the Universe parallels JP in that the science could have been better (a whole lot better), but it's still a good story, and the themes in it are pretty much universal. And I guess that's where I sit, glad that I was given an enjoyable reading experience, but a little let down that it couldn't have been done better.