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!