Dear Mom: On Sending the Beatles into Space

Dear Mom*,

Holy crap, isn't this cover FAN-FRIGGIN-TASTIC? I love the colors and the outlines of the face and oooooooh.

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since the super talented Jodi Meadows (I WANT JODI MITTS) mentioned it on her blog.  It’s got all the things I love about current YA writing: a sci-fi premise, a Romance, interesting world-building, and a fairly plausible what-if.  So I bought it and read it the day after it came out.

Across the Universe takes place on a ship floating through space, heading towards (I assume) alpha-Centauri, whose the passengers shall colonize this New Earth.  The protagonist, Amy, was cryogenically frozen.  Though she expects to wake up on Centauri-Earth in 300 years, she is unplugged fifty years early and nearly killed.  And then more people are unplugged, but this time they do die.  Amy must find the killer before they strike again—before they murder her parents.

MORAL OF THE STORY:

World building and the villain’s character were totally fascinating.  I love the way Revis took the tropes of modern day, stuck ‘em in an enclosed spaceship, and ran.  Her use of science to justify the plot was (as far as I know) plausible and added a great feel to it for such a futuristic fan like myself.  The plot was a little predictable, however, and the protagonist, Amy—while given plenty of distinctions—ultimately static.  And I had major issues with the voice, particularly Amy’s narration.  But yanno what, Mom?  I think you’d like the book a lot.  I’d recommend it to you no question.

4** Koi Fish (For high-octane concept and fabulous world-building.  And Eldest.)

More in depth coverage on my thoughts (along with sorta-not-really spoilers) after the jump.

I’m freezing over here on Iki.  I wish I had you around to make me a hot totty, mommy.

-the youngest, with love.

* I write book-review-letters to my mom and my good friend Nikki because I can.  We’re all three Big Book Nerds.

**A breakdown of my grades: 1 = I don’t like it.  I shouldn’t have finished it.  2 = It was an acceptable use of my time. 3 = I liked it!  I’ve read better books, but definitely enjoyed this one.  4 = Impressed.  5 = This is one of those books that you hug to your chest when it’s over, sigh happily (or sadly), then immediately want to read again.

 

Let me start with what I liked.

Nay, what I loved.

The world that Revis envisioned is chilling in both its propensity and its complexity.  I had some issues with (what I viewed as) authorial moral judgment on some of the issues—particularly genetic splicing and genetic engineering, but mostly the tyrannical, futuristic society is well formed and lovingly frightening.  Just your cup of tea, mom.  Yet there are improvements in her world versus ours: grav-tubes, floppies, and a flourishing in the arts that confounded me at first, yet worked within her society.

She also does a great job of continuing the change and flow of language.  I thought her view of how their “accents” morphed was great, but I also appreciated that she didn’t constantly write it that way, as it would have been distracting.  The world really came alive, and because of that, I can forgive a lot of the issues that bothered me.

Though Eldest, Elder, and the others on the ship are supposed to be darker, this is how I imagined Eldest. Junichiro Koizumi. (Sorry, Japan.)

Eldest, in particular, grabbed me by the proverbial balls and worked his magic.  He is such a fantastic, complex villain.  His occasional vulnerability made me sympathize with him, and that’s Totally.  Awesome.  He seemed so determined to prove his omnipotence, yet even he struggles with the decisions made for The Greater Good.  (I remember a great many Intense Philosophical Discussions with you regarding this, mom.)  I also appreciated that he loses his temper, is not all knowing—though he could be—and makes mistakes.  I’d say he was my favorite character in the book.

The murder-mystery-ish plot was acceptable if predictable.  I figured out the villain within the first fifty pages.  Hard to be surprised when the Cast of Characters is so small.  I did get a pleasant shock at the end regarding Elder’s motivations, and I thought the way Revis made her reveal was creative.  Likewise, though both Amy and Elder were well-imagined, fairly nuanced characters, only Elder proved to be truly dynamic.  Amy is in no way a badly written character, but as an MC I felt her character arc left a little to be desired.

And here’s why: the narration.  Across the Universe is written with two first-person, present tense narrators, Amy and Elder.  (It reminded me a lot of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary Pearson.)  For the first third-ish of the story, Amy is encased in ice and thus only has her mind to talk to (and the readers). There was a palpable disconnect between Amy and I, though perhaps it was me projecting the book trailer onto the voice of the character.  I rarely felt much urgency in her tone, and when I did, it only became heart-pounding and engrossing once.  Elder’s narrative chapters were better, but did not contrast enough to make up for the lack of direct action.  It was an odd choice considering the book itself is so high concept.  That being said, I thought the present-tense was a good choice because of the poetic way she writes Frozen!Amy.

Yet, even once the plot-related action picked up, I still felt disconnected from the characters because the first two-thirds of the books were just so…not quite apathetic, but close.  I want to say icy, but that seems like too much of a bad pun, even for me.

 

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