I loved Across the Universe, the first of Beth Revis’ series about a generation ship. I was really excited about the sequel and bought it ages ago… and have only now read it, as part of my Read the Books I Own but Haven’t Read thing.
Sadly, I was disappointed.
Spoilers for Across the Universe and A Million Suns.
The story picks up pretty much where the first one left off, again alternating between Amy – awakened before time on a generation ship that’s meant to be racing towards a new planet for colonisation – and Elder, now officially the one who’s in charge of the ship and the one who woke up Amy when he wasn’t meant to (which, the more I think about it, CREEPY. Which gets addressed briefly here but not enough). The book revolves around the issues confronting the population now that they’re off the drug that’s been in the water, keeping them all nicely docile, which also means that they can now realise that they’re being led by a sixteen year old boy (an issue which is only briefly addressed).
The good: I continue to like the exploration of generation ship issues. While I have some problems with how it’s done, it’s nonetheless good to see it done at all. If you’ve grown up in a tin can, it makes sense that at least some people are going to find the idea of not having walls utterly terrifying. It also makes sense that some people are going to resent begin, effectively, just a means to an end – why do stuff for people, and a destination, that you’ll never see? I was glad that Revis addressed some of the issues of resources and the problem of being a closed system, even if not in great detail.
I liked that people started thinking about political change. I can’t decide whether that happened too quickly or not, but it amused me greatly to see the French Revolution being referenced.
There are some pleasing aspects in Amy and Elder’s relationship. I really like the discussion of whether, if you only have one possible choice, falling in love with that person is real. There are too many examples of that just happening, as if OF COURSE I love you because you’re in front of me. Of course, this ignores the fact that people don’t necessarily fall in love with people of their own age – as demonstrated by Victria – which makes Amy’s flailing about do I/don’t I a bit precious. As mentioned above I really liked that Elder’s fascination with frozen Amy was revealed to Amy, even if it was only briefly an issue for her when I think it should have been more significant.
Overall, the writing is smooth; it’s not hard to read.
The bad: look, I don’t think I’ll read the third. That should tell you enough.
Amy and Elder both drove me nuts at different points. Amy whinges a lot, and Elder is alternately arrogant and fearful and it didn’t always make sense in context. Their relationship bugged me, especially towards the end – and I got annoyed because much of the story is about their relationship. When I realised that really, this is a love story that happens to be set in space, I got a bit less annoyed. Because that’s totally fine: it’s not what I was expecting or hoping for, but it’s a perfectly fine choice for Revis to make. Except that the story of their love just didn’t interest me that much – but that’s an issue of story telling rather than story choice.
To move on to the plot – Orion setting clues for Amy so that she finds out the truth about the ship was just ridiculous. It makes no sense for Orion to have done that, since I don’t think it’s suggested anywhere that he was sadistic. One clue, leading Amy to discover a video of Orion explaining the truth about the Godspeed, would have made sense. Or leading her to the space suits so that she could go out and see the truth for herself – that would have been fine too. But this convoluted trail that relied on Amy, a seventeen year old, having read certain stories and paying any attention to the shelving of books… seriously. No.
And the great reveal? I absolutely guessed that the ship was stationery, having already arrived. I think that the idea of people refusing to go down because of wild animals is weak, and the suggestion that people would not have earlier made exactly the decision that’s made at the end of the novel - of splitting the population – is ludicrous. The only thing that kept me reading this was to find out how the generation ship aspect was dealt with; I do not care enough to read about the population trying to make their way on the dirt.