Across the Universe

Across the UniverseAuthor: Beth Revis
Series: Across the Universe #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

And that’s when I realize the most important truth of life on this ship.  There is nowhere to run.

Welcome to Godspeed, the ship that is supposed to save humankind and whisk it onward to a planet 300 years away to inhabit.  When Amy lets herself be cryogenically frozen, she expects to wake up 300 years later on a new planet with her parents.  Instead, she wakes up about 50 years early, with her parents still frozen in stasis and no means to return to the long sleep herself.  Talk about first world problems.

Then we have Elder, who is being groomed to be the next leader of the ship as it travels across the galaxy.  What I don’t completely understand is why we needed a group of people living on the ship while it traveled to begin with (apart from the fact that there would be no story otherwise).  Seems more of a liability than an asset, as you run the risk of depleting your food source before the colonizers even wake up when they land (especially since it’s mentioned in the story that the vessel flies itself).  But anyway, I have a lot more to nit pick than just that, so we’ll give that one a free pass for now.

Let’s start with the mystery of who is unplugging the frozen people and killing them off.  While interesting enough, I guessed who-done-it fairly early on, making the big reveal anticlimactic.  Then there is the issue of the ship traveling through space itself, and here is where my fundamental problem lies.  For one, that subplot was rather easy to guess as well as it unraveled (as was the secret behind who Elder’s parents are).  For another, at least to me, the fundamentals behind the plot make absolutely no sense.  Here’s where it might get a little spoilery (and a little sciencey), so feel free to carry on elsewhere and just know that it’s an interesting story and the characters are interesting enough (though Amy was a little annoying at the beginning and I couldn’t exactly tell how old she was – sometimes she acted like a teenager, sometimes she acted like a ten-year-old), but I’m a little insulted that they likened it to Battlestar Galactica.

Oh, and one other thing before we go under the cut: the unplugging of the frozen people.  How did that make any sense?  If you are developing a ship to be the last chance of survival for the human race, would you design the cyro tubs so that they could simply be unplugged?  NO!  Definitely not.  Especially when unplugging them means the person inside dies.  You would have contingency after contingency after contingency to make sure they wake up when they are supposed to so that the human race has a chance for survival.  Every time I got to a point in the novel where someone got unplugged and killed, I wanted to throw the book down in aggravation.

So one of the main issues in Across the Universe that drives the plot is that the ship is slowing down.  The reasoning that Revis uses is that the engines are no longer running at full capacity.  Which is fine, but in my mind makes no sense.  After all, space is a vacuum.  Thus, there is no friction, no air resistance – nothing really – to slow it down.  Having the engines sputter out would prevent it from accelerating more, sure, but its velocity wouldn’t decrease.  If it had been explained this way, I would have been more inclined to buy into what Revis was saying (although, I must confess, probably not entirely as you would think after 250 years – heck, after 100 years even – you would have already reached the terminal speed the engines could push you).  The only thing I could think of that would cause an issue with malfunctioning engines would be if you needed to steer towards planets for gravity assist, or away from black holes and suns to keep from getting sucked in.  But none of that is even mentioned, so I was left wholly unsatisfied.

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