“Across the Universe”
by Beth Revis
read by Lauren Ambrose and Carlos Santos
Published by Penguin Audio
Approx 10 hours
Once again I venture into the world of Young Adult fiction, and this time around it’s a really cool science fiction book, “Across the Universe.” The story is a simple, yet very intriguing, tale of love and power.
Scientists of Earth have discovered a planet that is capable of supporting life, the problem is that travelling to the planet would take 350 years. To solve this problem the ship Godspeed has been created which will carry a generational crew that will for several generations support the ship on the long journey and a special cargo of several specialists frozen in cryogenic boxes that will be unfrozen when landing on the new planet.
Amy, a 17-year-old girl, is one of the members frozen but only because here mother is a genetics specialist and her father is military, both of whom are essential in the mission. Amy is listed as non-essential, because she serves no purpose in the mission. During her Cryogenic stasis, Amy is treated to dreams that haunt her during the 300 year journey. Finally she is unfrozen, but awakes onboard the Godspeed, that is still travelling to the planet. In fact her premature thaw is part of a mystery that has plagued the ship for some time.
To keep the ship running the ship’s generational crew is led by a leader called Eldest. Eldest leads the current generation in its mission to take the ship to the new planet and at the same time is teaching Elder, who will be the next Eldest when that generation “dies-off.” Elder is around 18 years and the generation he will lead is yet to be born.
Before I go more into the story I’d like to talk about the audiobook itself. The book is told from the point of view of Amy and Elder and this production casts the part of Amy read by Lauren Ambrose and Elder by Carlos Santos. Each of the readers does a great part in reading their part as well as voicing the other character’s dialogues. With the dual cast aspect this audiobook is very smooth flowing and definitely attention grabbing. Each reader is strong in their performance, and able to effectively portray all emotions and attitudes of the characters.
So where were we? Oh yeah, Amy has been thawed out prematurely. She soon finds out that the ship still has about 50 years left on its journey and realizes that by the time the ship arrives on the planet she will be older than her parents. Add to that horror she finds that the ship’s crew are mono-ethnic, meaning that as a pale-skinned redhead she stands out in a population where everyone has brown hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. Add on top of that, other bodies are being thawed out but their thawing process is not done right and they drown in their cryo-chambers. Amy only survived because Elder was exploring this part of the ship that is hidden from all other members, and managed to find her before she died. Elder was exploring this section of the ship under the suggestion of Orion, the records keeper, who has a dark mystery.
Everyone on the ship has a job to do and there are no people under the age of 20. Each generation’s population is strictly controlled by the ship’s mysterious doctor and Eldest. Amy is unfrozen around the time of “The Cycle” when as if going in heat the current generation suddenly begins acting as animals do and the urge to mate overwhelms all senses of decency.
Elder soon learns the big secret as to why the structure of Eldest/Elder was formed. It seems the ships engines weren’t all they were cracked up to be and the ship is actually further than 50 years from its final destination. To keep this secret the Eldest have been controlling the population with mind control drugs in the water to keep them obedient. With this dark secret, Elder and Amy are faced with the decision of what the population needs to know and how to keep the ship on course, no matter how long it takes.
A great story, some very well thought out Sci-fi, and great performances from the readers makes this young adult fiction something everyone should put on their must listen list.