When I finished the first of the novels in Beth Revis’ Young Adult science fiction trilogy, Across the Universe, I was fortunate. I was able to pick up the sequel A Millions Suns immediately. Rather less fortunately, having finished A Million Suns I now have to wait for 2013 for the conclusion to this fine series. As is always the case with sequels – especially trilogy middle books – they are difficult to review without peeks into the contents of the preceding novel. I’ll try and keep them to a minimum but spoilers are inevitable and you would be doing yourself a big favour by reading Across the Universe first.
Elder and Amy are aboard the city-sized space ship Godspeed, heading for a new home, Centauri-Earth. Amy was among the frozen cargo of personnel required to make the planet habitable, but she was a piece of non-essential luggage brought along with her far more vital parents. She was awoken from her cold sleep centuries after she left earth but too early. While Amy, now parentless, has to deal with life aboard the Godspeed, divided into different worlds for its feeders, keepers, shippers, Elder has to adapt to his new role as Eldest, the leader of the ship. Having deprived the crew and citizens of their sedatives, he now has to cope with their increasing awareness, individuality and violence.
But, just as the first novel contained a mystery, so too does A Million Suns. Orion, the Recorder, has left a series of clues leading to the reality of the ship’s position and the crew’s plight. The mystery of what lies outside the ship is paralleled by the rising fever within it. Murder and rape accompany the increasing self-awareness of everyone on the ship while Elder and Amy blunder around in their own confusion to unfathom what is going on.
A Million Suns may be the middle novel in a trilogy but it manages the difficult and is every bit as good as the first, if not better. Amy is a fascinating character, standing out amongst the homogeneous, inbred crew with her red hair, pale skin and spirit. She continues to struggle against her overwhelming inner desire to awaken her parents whilst also trying to think of what is best for her shipmates. She is also doing her best to protect the other young women on the vessel as they fall victim to the newly awoken predators aboard.
As before, the novel alternates between the first person narratives of Amy and Elder, both of them seeing different parts of the ship, having alternative aims and also following their separate quests while each relies on the other. And as before, Amy is the stronger and more interesting character although, as these novels progress, it becomes more difficult to blame Elder for that.
In A Million Suns, as new characters are freed from their sedation they come into their own, whether for good or bad. There are twists and turns and I was so immersed in this world I didn’t see them coming. The drama of a starship containing thousands of lives, not really knowing where they are from and with little knowledge of where they may be heading, is claustrophobic and yet limitless. The end is truly exciting, terrifying and tantalising. Shades of Earth is published in January 2013. I’m counting.