Friday, April 05, 2013

Across the Universe

So I've had an interesting time with this book.

A few months back, I had this great idea for a book. At least, I thought it was a great idea. Granted, it wasn't much of an idea right now. Just a few snippets of character ideas, an idea about the setting, and that's about it. I've started with less in the past. I figured it might be worth pursuing.

Then I saw a copy of Across the Universe on the shelf of a Barnes and Noble. For some reason, I felt compelled to pick it up and read the back cover copy. And almost immediately, my heart fell into my shoes.

It was my idea. Published a year earlier than I had it.

Okay, maybe I didn't have a reason to panic. There are lots of instances where multiple books are published with similar plots. But the back cover copy for this one was so similar to my initial glimmerings of an idea, I had to check it out. I bought it but then left it on my to-be-read pile, mostly because I didn't want to see if it was the same.

I finally screwed on my courage and pulled it down this week to read it. And, for the most part, I'm glad I did.

This book is the story of a girl named Amy. She and her parents have signed on to be cryo frozen and then put on a generation ship, one that will travel through space to a new planet, one that they will colonize.

Fast forward to several centuries later. A young man known as Elder is studying under a man called Eldest. Eldest is the leader of Godspeed, the generation ship. Elder is supposed to be learning how to someday take up the mantle of leadership from Eldest, but it isn't easy. Eldest doesn't seem to like him that much.

But then, a surprising thing happens. Amy thaws out early. That wasn't part of the plan, especially not Eldest's plans. Amy is an intrusion into his carefully ordered world and he's worried that Amy could destabilize everything.

Elder isn't so sure. Amy is unlike any girl he's ever seen. For one thing, she's his age. He's the youngest person on Godspeed by design. And she has some unusual ideas about how life is supposed to work.

But that's not the only problem on Godspeed. Someone is killing the frozen passengers. And Elder is beginning to realize how much of his home is founded and run on lies.

Okay, so now that I've read the book, let's see what I think:

For the most part, the book is fascinating. In many ways, what Beth Revis has written is a dystopian novel, one with a science fiction veneer to it. The whole relationship between Elder and Eldest is interesting, even though Eldest seems more of a caricature than a real person. The society in Godspeed is interesting as well.

But here are the problems:

1) I saw the ending coming. It's telegraphed pretty badly.

2) There was a lot of graphic content in here. Now, I get why. I do. The way the society is engineered, it makes sense. But I'm not sure that Revis had to be as graphic as she was. It's a personal thing, though.

But there's one big thing that has me upset about this book. And before I explain why, I need to bring back an old friend to my blog.

Godzilla, take it away:

I'll try to keep them to a minimum, but be forewarned.

3) Like I said in my little recap, Godspeed is a ship of lies, a lot of which unravel as Elder and Amy work together. Eventually, Eldest reveals part of the truth to Elder. When he did, I wound up groaning.

It's clear to me that Beth Revis doesn't have a working knowledge of physics. At least, not to how it might apply to interstellar travel aboard a generation ship. There's this little thing called momentum that would play a big part of that journey. That's all I'm going to say. If you've read the book, hopefully you know what I'm talking about.

The thing is, what she did could have worked in a slightly different way. But sadly, there's an oops here and it's pretty significant.

That said, I came to the following conclusion:

1) I'd like to read the rest of these books. I'm curious to see where Revis goes from here and what will eventually happen to the people on Godspeed.

2) My idea might work after all. We'll see.

1 comment:

Bainespal said...

Neither generation ships nor cryogenic sleep for space travel are remotely original, and I wouldn't be surprised if the two have been combined often enough before. Reminds me a movie I saw a while back, Pandorum.

For that matter, just last year I even wrote an interactive fiction story/game featuring a generation ship called the Godspeed!