I acquired an Advance Review Copy of this book from the publisher at ALA in January. This review is based on that version.
Concerning Character: The story's told in the alternating viewpoints of Amy, who wakes up mysteriously early from her cryogenic sleep and realizes that it was not an accident, and Elder, who is the leader-in-training for the society that has evolved aboard the ship Godspeed. Their contrasting perspectives on the situation were nicely done, and I loved seeing the ship through Amy's eyes, as she strikes me as being a stand-in for the reader in some ways, providing a familiar viewpoint on an unfamiliar world. I would have liked the side characters to feel a little more fleshed out—Eldest, for instance, and Orion, who were both critical to the story and intriguing enough for me to want to know more. I suppose there's always room for that in a sequel...
Recommended for Fans Of...: Maria V. Snyder's Inside/Out, a suspenseful read which also takes place in the far future in a rather regimented society (reviewed here). Ally Condie's Matched, which explores the idea of love in a future where everything seems to be determined for you (reviewed here).
Themes & Things: I had a good discussion with Jennifer, another member of our writing group, about the fact that the society depicted on Godspeed has interbred to the point of near-complete racial uniformity, so Amy's appearance—and her shocking red hair and fair skin—create quite a contrast and a stir. That, and the other genetic aspects of the story, like population control and minimizing the effects of inbreeding in a population of limited size, are particularly interesting to ponder. And, of course, Elder must learn what it means to be a leader and how he can grow into that position as an individual, rather than as the obedient and unquestioning scion that the ruling Eldest expects him to be.
Authorial Asides: All I can say is, what an awesome debut novel. I'm fantastically envious in a "wish I'd written it" sort of way. The author has a very nifty personal site here, and blogs about dystopian lit here,. Plus I think she has the same agent as Neil Gaiman. Talk about wow! (Says the girl who, at this point, is basically jealous of ANYONE with an agent.)
You can find Across the Universe at an independent bookstore near you!
I was thrown off by the supposed inbreeding--the population must have been fairly homogenous to begin with for such uniformity to have developed in just a few centuries! And this doubt kept buzzing in my head, keeping me from enjoying the story...
I put it down a few days ago, unfinished, but maybe I should try again?
That was one of the issues Jennifer and I talked about. It wasn't something that interfered with the overall reading experience--for me, anyway--but it was something I went back to afterward and thought about. I couldn't help wondering, if they became so phenotypically similar so quickly, if genetic disorders like hemophilia were also a problem!
Ultimately, I think I'm just good at ignoring quibbles like this for the duration of the book unless they really jump out at me, and I guess this one didn't. :) I don't want to be responsible for advocating that you pick it up again and then have it continue to be annoying, though...
To be honest, for me, it was the mystery/suspense aspect, plus the cool factor of it being set in space, that attracted me and kept me reading. And as I was reading, I didn't think too deeply into the scientific accuracy of it.
I do want to find out what happens...so I probably would have picked it up again anyway! So I won't hold it against you if it still bugs me :)
I read a lot of sci-fi back when I still fit into the YA bracket, so reading this book was a bit nostalgic for me. I was also intrigued by the murder mystery aspect and even though there is a little romance, I liked that it wasn't the main focus of the book.
I didn't think about how quickly the population reached uniformity until I read it here. I wonder if maybe it was deliberate? The ships leaders had already SPOILER ALERT manipulated so many aspects of the population to the point of genetic alteration. Perhaps they bred everyone to be similar on purpose and that's an issue that will be addressed in the sequel.
Oh, I hope they address it in the sequel. I'd love some of those questions to be answered. (Then again, I'm a greedy reader who wants to know everything...)
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