The Across the Universe series seemed to be one of the staples of everyone’s shelves on the booktube community when we first joined almost three years ago. And I’m sure the majority of you will have heard of this series, if not for it’s content, then for the widely contested cover change. DUN DUN DUN. Not many people are talking about this series anymore, but we decided to give it ago anyway, because if it was popular once, then maybe it could be again. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be the case. The whole series is very typical of what the YA market was like a a few years ago. Full of adventure, insta-love, and poorly explained enemies. Had we read it when it was first popular maybe we would’ve enjoyed the series, but instead we found ourselves slogging through for the sake of this review.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Across the Universe does an interesting job of setting up the series, while remaining a very enclosed book that you could read as a stand alone. It begins with Amy, a girl from Earth who’s cryogenically frozen so she can be reawakened when the ship reaches a new planet, and Elder, set to lead the spaceship colony on its galactic journey to the planet. The spark that starts the narrative is Amy being accidentally awoken before her time. She and Elder then learn the secrets of Godspeed and realise the governing system is becoming an evil dictatorship, devoid of hope for the future.
But, when certain secrets were revealed, it was hard to figure out what the motive was. Like, what possible reason could someone have for waking up X number of people? And why did the dictator need to lie about their situation? The reveals felt anticlimactic, when there wasn’t something strong behind them. I was expecting more mystery and drive to discover, seeing as the blurb states: “A killer is out there – and Amy has nowhere to hide…”
A MILLION SUNS
There was kind of a role reversal in this one, but I wouldn’t say that made it any more exciting. Amy was the rational and reasonable one, while Elder struggled to make decisions as the new leader of the ship.The whole story was very back-and-forth and the new ‘secrets’ and ‘truth’ the blurb promises are clouded by metaphorical language about suns and stars. Also, if you’ve ever watched an episode of Doctor Who, it’s easy to guess what those secrets are. Also, what ‘chaos that threatens to tear them apart’?!?! The one thing you can say about this series is that Elder and Amy are extremely serious about each other extremely quickly. They stand by each other’s decisions for the most part, and although there’s some Bad Communications (isn’t there always?) I never felt that there was anything pushing them away from one another.
Largely, I’d say that A Million Suns was forgettable. It suffered from a bad case of second book syndrome; it’s only real purpose being trying to propel us towards the ending.
SHADES OF EARTH
I bet from this title you can’t guess what happens. That’s right, it’s what this whole series has been building up to: the landing on the new planet. Originally, I’d had hopes that Shades of Earth would be similar to The 100: Homecoming (a much more succinct sci-fi/survival story, in my opinion) but I was largely disappointed. Instead it’s more like Jurassic Park. Unfortunately, Beth Revis adds a secondary love interest seemingly for no reason whatsoever, maybe just to add a final punch to the end of the series. And characters are dying left, right and centre. I think this book was supposed to be intense and heartbreaking, but I can honestly say I felt no connection to the characters whatsoever.
To a large extent this book was a mess. There was absolutely no sense of time and at one point the Colonel suggests they head back to original Earth which I thought wasn’t possible because Earth wasn’t habitable any more, and more shuttles are supposed to have arrived on this planet, I don’t- what? I was so confused throughout the whole thing.
W R I T I N G S T Y L E
The writing had a tendency to be very repetitive. Instead of just saying that Amy was angry, the sentence would be “I was angry, annoyed and pissed off.” Aren’t those all variations of the same thing? Especially in the first third of the book, actions were described to a mind numbing extent, for example, “he placed the pencil on the very edge of the desk, careful to line it perfectly with…” It felt a little laborious. As the books progressed, descriptions became more succinct, but it was hard to break that initial desire to skim read.
C H A R A C T E R S
Amy was definitely the more interesting of the two. She facilitated the world building, as the new environment had to be explained to her. She’s the ‘special snowflake’ because she’s got fiery red hair that means she stands out amongst all of the monotonic people of the arc. She’s the girl that the entire plot relies upon. Basically, she’s your typical cookie cutter YA protagonist from 2011.
Elder gave the wrong impression to begin with when he couldn’t stop staring at Amy’s breasts. He just seemed really pervy and that’s not what I wanted to think about the next leader of Godspeed. He also did some pretty idiotic things. He couldn’t follow instructions (that scene with the high pitched sound in his ear was ridiculous. He knew exactly how to stop it, but refused???) But, I did like how the relationship between Amy and Elder wasn’t over the top. The only part of the book that wasn’t, practically.
The rest of the characters on the ship act pretty similarly to those in The Host. You’ve got your creepy guy that really doesn’t like the main outsider girl, at least. Sidenote: I got through the majority of this series by reading the name Orion as Onion.
V E R D I C T
The first book might be worth a read, but after that, maybe give the other books a miss. The covers are gorgeous whatever version you see, but the content just didn’t live up to our expectations. I’d even say that this series has put me off sci-fi. So, if you too are a little wary of sci-fi books try The 100 or Under the Never Sky instead.