Across the Universe by Beth Revis is a unique sort of precursor to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. There are many parallels between the books, although Across the Universe is written for young adults and Brave New World is a more difficult book to understand and enjoy. (And there is really no significant romance.)
In both books, the characters live in a dystopian society where people are drugged to banish emotions and individual thoughts. The masses are happy, calm, and willing to do whatever is required of them by the government. Also, in both books there are different levels of citizens: those who must do the physical labor needed by society, those who are more intelligent and control the others to a degree and perform the higher tasks necessary for society, and finally, the rulers, who control everything.
In Across the Universe, the story begins when Amy, one of the two protagonists, must make a very difficult decision: to be cryogenically frozen along with her parents and travel into the future on a ship bound for a planet 300 years away, or to stay behind on Earth with her aunt and uncle and the life she has known. Although she witnesses the painful process as her parents undergo the freezing, she opts to join them on the journey.
When she is mysteriously animated years too early, she searches for answers in the strange new world that is the ship. She finds agricultural workers who have no independent thought, but other people who have higher cognitive abilities. She lives in the “hospital” with the “mentals,” who are the only people who seem normal by Earth standards.
There is also Elder, the protege of Eldest, the ship’s ruler. Elder, the future ruler of the ship, is the one who finds her and saves her. He is her age and is fascinated by her red hair and pale white skin. As Amy finds out, in this future world, there are no different races (everyone has light brown skin and slightly almond-shaped brown eyes. There is also no religion, and as Elder learns eventually, there is no independent thought.
Amy instinctively fights Eldest and everything he stands for, and Elder, completely infatuated with Amy, begins to question more and more of what he has been taught. Why does no one live longer than sixty? Why do older people go into the hospital but never leave? And most of all, what is Eldest hiding from him?
Their search for the truth almost brings disaster upon them. The answers to their questions and the climax are surprising. By the end of the first book, life on the ship will have been changed for as long as it takes to get to their destination.
This is a wonderful, exciting first book in a trilogy that promises to delve further into the question of whether drugs are necessary to keep the peace in a world where there is no hope left of seeing the sun or the stars. Will Elder be able to rule without drugging the populace? Will he succumb to the temptation to take the easy way out and rule like the Eldest before him? These are questions to which the reader will look forward to finding answers in the next book.
Disclaimer: the reviewer received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher. However, the review is unbiased and the reviewer declines to review books not worthy (in the reviewer’s humble opinion) of recommendation.