Across the Universe, Beth Revis’s debut young adult novel, is the story of the first ship that sets out from Earth to colonize a planet around another star system. Told from the perspectives of two characters, Amy and Elder, the story combines science fiction with mystery, romance, and dystopia.
The story begins with Amy as she watches her parents undergo a terrifying and painful cryogenic freezing process. It has been their lifelong dream to join the first interstellar mission though space, and now they are going on a 300-year voyage to a new planet, Centauri-Earth. Amy’s mother, a botanist, will help to terraform the new world, and her father, a member of the military, will take part in the mission’s leadership. Amy has promised to come with them, but just before her father is frozen, he tells her that she does not have to keep this promise; she can choose to stay on Earth if she would rather do so. When he is locked in ice, Amy decides to go. Although she will miss her friends and her boyfriend, who will all be dead by the time she wakes up, she allows herself to be frozen and loaded onto the ship.
In Chapter 2, the narrative jumps to Elder, a sixteen-year-old boy who will be the next leader of the generation ship Godspeed. At first, Godspeed is hard to recognize as the same ship that carries Amy. Elder is concerned with the living, unfrozen people who keep the ship running and produce food to keep themselves alive on the voyage to Centauri-Earth. He is also concerned with his teacher, the ship’s current leader, Eldest.
Eldest acts like a kind, grandfatherly man in the presence of his people. However, he is angry and cold-hearted in private. Eldest is suspicious of Elder, constantly accusing the boy of being unfit to lead. This is partly because there was another Elder before the current one. That former Elder rebelled against Eldest’s leadership and ended up dying under mysterious circumstances.
When readers first meet Elder, he is angry. Eldest keeps many secrets about the ship, and Elder does not feel he is learning enough about the leadership role he will soon adopt. In a fit of rebellion, Elder presses a mysterious button, and a retracting cover reveals a window. Elder has spent his whole life confined within the metal walls of the ship, and he is amazed at the beauty of the stars...
(The entire section is 2220 words.)
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