Source: Bought copy
I cannot get enough of Young Adult science fiction. If done well, it can make my eyes boggle with wonder as I let myself be carried off to marvellous worlds, whether hostile or magnificent – or both. The Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis is one of the finest examples I’ve read and here at last, in Shades of Earth, we have the end. This inevitably provokes mixed feelings – pleasure at discovering the destiny of Amy and Elder, satisfaction that I now have the complete set to reread, but sadness that this is it.
Firstly and most importantly, Shades of Earth is a good final novel. If you’ve read Across the Universe and A Million Suns, then you will not be disappointed. Beth Revis has looked after Amy and Elder. But, if you haven’t read the preceding novels then I advise you step no further. You have to have read these earlier accounts of the voyage of starship Godspeed first in order to see where it ends up and how.
Shades of Earth begins with the decision of much of the crew of Godspeed to land a part of the ship and its people on the longed for planet of Centauri-Earth. Elder embarks onto the jungle planet along with his homogeneous people, now freed of the sedative drug Phydus, and the startling red-haired Amy. With them are the sleeping chambers or pods of scientists and soldiers frozen generations ago, including Amy’s parents. On landing, the sleepers are awoken and this makes for one of the great differences from the previous novels. Having asserted his leadership on Godspeed against Eldest and Orion and others, now Elder has a different kind of rival; a man who has not experienced centuries of life aboard Godspeed and has no idea of the cost that this made on the ship’s crew – Colonel Martin, Amy’s father. In a new environment, on a mysterious planet, with a dominant set of old world masters, Elder and his people are completely detached from what they know, even though they are well aware that this landing on Centauri-Earth is the entire object of their existence. But just imagine how it must feel for those newly awoken.
We remember from Across the Universe, of course, the terrifying freezing process that put the Martin family in their pods for the centuries’ long journey to the new Earth. After reading about that, we’re bound to feel more for Colonel Martin and his wife than Elder can. Elder has other rivals for Amy’s affections too.
Another new element to the trilogy is the planet of Centauri-Alpha itself. Godspeed might have sailed towards the new Earth for generations but in Shades of Earth here it is. The claustrophobic environment of the ship is now replaced by a fertile jungle world, rich with oxygen and – more unexpectedly – signs of humanity. But it’s not long before people are picked off one by one by monsters in the jungle, terrifying and gruesome and secret. This drama intensifies and heats the rivalry between the awoken sleepers and the original Godspeeders. Amy is right there in the middle, caught between the two. Elder has his own battles as he tries to secure the planet for his people. Drastic measures are called for. And now is the time we learn the answers to some of the great mysteries of the first two novels, not least concerning Phydus.
Shades of Earth is a thrilling novel. It takes up the excitement of the previous novels and lifts it up a notch. It brings together the two worlds of Godspeed and Centauri-Earth in an explosion of emotion and menace while being different and original from the two wonderful preceding novels. As before the narrative is split between Any and Elder and Amy continues to fill the heart of the novel – here more than ever she is caught between two worlds. But I had more time for Elder in Shades of Earth. He might be out of his comfort zone but he responds with courage. I was also glad that, although much of the action takes place on the planet, there is still time for Godspeed, an extraordinarily well-visualised ship.
I look forward very much to visiting the worlds that Beth Revis will take me to next.