Across the Universe
By Beth Revis
Razorbill, 2011

Across the Universe is a pop science fiction novel. It is well-written and fast-paced, and is a fairly light read, insofar as that label can be applied to a 400-page novel.

The novel starts in the not-too-distant future, as the Earth is going through yet another financial crisis and the nations of Earth are forced into a world government. As a sign of international cooperation and a recognition that life on Earth is pretty crappy, the new federation is building a generation ship that is to head out to "Centauri-Earth", a planet that they are nearly certain is habitable. Amy's parents have been selected for their potentially useful skills in settling the new planet, so their family will be travelling in suspended animation, only to be woken up once the ship arrives.

Except that Amy is woken up early. No one is sure who did it, but it certainly is an inconvenient time for her to be woken up. The ship is still 50 years out from arrival, and Amy cannot be safely refrozen -- nor are the powers that be willing to defrost her parents before shipfall. Moreover, the ship is undergoing a minor political crisis, as the boy who has been raised to be leader, Elder, and the man training him, Eldest, are having a bit of a falling out. Amy is shunted off to the mental ward of the ship's hospital and told to stay put.

Meanwhile, Elder is starting to learn that there are a number of interesting (and perhaps dark) secrets regarding the ship that Eldest has kept hidden from him. Elder is only 16, so his reaction to this is fairly angsty and ineffective, but even so he manages to find a surprising number of clues that things are not as they seem. It helps, of course, that part of Eldest's job is to tell Elder these secrets, but the more he learns the further the rabbit hole seems to go. Meanwhile, after centuries of shipboard inbreeding, red-haired, pale-skinned Amy sticks out like a sore thumb on the monoethnic ship, and naturally Elder is smitten with her.

And then another cryogenic chamber is opened, and this one is not discovered in time to save its occupant. And then another. Amy and Elder, with the help of some eccentric characters from the hospital, have to find out who is doing this and why, before Amy's parents are killed.

This is a well-written book, and it is hard to put down. Very short chapters which alternate between Amy's and Elder's viewpoints give it a very fast pace, and the twists aren't quite predictable enough to be boring. However, it is fairly soft as far as the science fiction aspects go, with some very iffy science quickly glossed over. It is also somewhat formulaic, especially in the characters' interpersonal relationships, reading pretty much like all of the other popular mystery/SF/thrillers that come along periodically. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as these books are popular for a reason, but I would consider this more of a good beach book than a work of good, inventive science fiction.

There are currently three-plus books in the Across the Universe trilogy; Across the Universe, A Million Suns, and Shades of Earth, plus two prequel novellas, As They Slip Away (Across the Universe 0.5), and Love Is A Choice (Across the Universe 0.6).

ISBN-10: 9781595144676
ISBN-13: 978-1595144676