Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review: Across the Universe

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, book one)
By Beth Revis, read by Lauren Ambrose and Carlos Santos
Published 2011 by Penguin Audio

Amy was supposed to awake 300 years after she was put to sleep. She was supposed to awake alongside her parents, scientists essential to settling a new planet. She was supposed to awake on that new planet. But she doesn't. Instead, Amy is awoken 50 years early, aboard the spaceship Godspeed, where nothing is as it seems. Together with Elder (the future leader of the ship), she must discover who woke her - especially once other are unplugged and left to die.

When my fiance and I travel by car (which we prefer to air travel), we like to listen to audiobooks to pass the time. It's always my responsibility to choose the audiobook partly because I'm the librarian but also partly because my fiance can be pretty indecisive. It's pretty easy for me to pick something because our tastes are not all that different, but I tend to go for speculative fiction when we're listening together. We can get engrossed in the worldbuilding, and usually the plots move along quickly, so we stay interested the whole ride.

This book is one of the audiobooks we listened to together - well, we started it together (actually, quite some time ago) and then, after my iPod's recent demise, we both decided to download and finish it separately (though we finished within 24 hours of each other). I tend to lean more toward the fantasy side of speculative fiction than the science fiction side, but I knew my fiance would be into this one, so I decided to give it a chance.

I think it was a good choice on audio. Generally, I enjoy audio productions that feature multiple voices, and it was, of course, a natural choice to have two narrators for this book. I liked Santos' narration slightly better, but that's mainly because Ambrose had a tendency to get whispery, something which really irritates me in audio productions. I know they were simply reading it as written, but I did find it a bit tediously unnecessary that they stated the character's names at the start of each chapter.

As to the book itself, I found it enjoyable enough, but nothing to really write home about. I thought Revis did a decent job of creating the world on board the ship, though, mostly, it's nothing you haven't seen before. The suspense is well-done; I enjoyed learning about the ship and its inhabitants alongside Amy and trying to pinpoint who would want to kill innocent people. There is a twist at the end that I hadn't seen coming, so that was nice, too.

Character-wise, I liked Elder more than Amy. I found Amy's habit of referring to her father as "Daddy" just particularly annoying, to the point where I couldn't ignore it. However, I think they're both complex characters and Revis did well giving them rich, multilayered stories.

I'm a bit disappointed in this as a series starter; the story is completely self-contained in this volume. There are about a million directions that could be explored in other volumes, so I would have liked, perhaps, a bit more explicit set-up for book two. I'll still probably check out the rest of the series (and I know my fiance wants to, as well), but this was a pretty middle of the road opener in my eyes.

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