I mentioned Beth Revis’ Across the Universe trilogy as one of my favorite books of 2012, though I only reviewed the first two so far. The final book in the trilogy, Shades of Earth, is out this week (Tuesday, January 15), and I got an early peek at it. It’s a great conclusion to the story, and even if you’re not a big fan of the romance portion (which seems to be a requisite for young adult fiction), the sci-fi part of the story is worth checking out.
Now, for those of you who haven’t read the first two books yet, you may want to stop here. Instead, go back and read my mostly spoiler-free review of those. For the rest of you, this review will contain spoilers for the first two books, and a few for the third book but I’ll try to keep those to a minimum.
First, a quick synopsis of the first two books: the Godspeed is headed to a promising Earth-like planet 300 years away. Amy’s parents are involved in the mission and she is given a choice between living out her life on Earth without them, or giving up everything she knows to go to an unknown planet. She chooses to take the journey, but then is awakened from cryo-sleep 50 years too early, to find a society on the ship very different from what she expected.
We meet Elder, a teenage boy near Amy’s age who has been bred to become the next leader of the ship. He is faced with a daunting set of challenges: somebody has been murdering the people in cryo-sleep. The ship’s population has been kept under control by Phydus, a drug that is pumped into their water supply, ever since a horrible plague wiped out much of the population and the Elder system was established. But there are things that aren’t right: the timing seems off, and calculations reveal that the ship should have landed at Centauri-Earth long ago. What really happened at the time of the plague?
By the end of the second book, we’ve discovered that the Godspeed actually had reached its destination, but because of the direction the ship’s few portholes faced, nobody knew that they’d been orbiting the planet for who knows how long. Elder makes the decision to go down to the planet, despite warnings that there are “monsters” on the surface, something bad enough to have kept everyone trapped inside a dying spaceship for generations.
In Shades of Earth, we finally start to get some answers to all the mysteries that have shrouded the Godspeed — but not before we get some new questions first. Not all of the ship-born want to go down to the planet’s surface; for them, Godspeed is home, and they can’t imagine life without the comforting walls around them. They’d rather risk the slow death as the ship ceases to function than face the unknowns below. Elder and Amy take the shuttle on its one-way descent, along with a small number of the ship-born and all of the military and scientific personnel still in cryo-sleep.
After a tumultuous landing, they start to thaw out the Earth-borns. After all, this was the whole purpose of the trip: to bring these scientists to study Centauri-Earth, and the military to protect them from any indigenous hazards. For Amy, it’s a chance to see her parents again, after believing that she’d be old and dead long before they arrived on the planet. (It’s hard to remember, with all the things that took place in the first two books, that Amy has only been awake for about three months.) However, as soon as the Earth-borns are awakened, everything shifts. The military personnel take charge of the mission, exacerbating the us-vs.-them mentality that had already been present on the ship. The ship-borns are treated as second-class citizens, and their mistrust of the Earth-borns seems justified after all.
Amy is caught in the middle of this — although she’s been an outsider on the Godspeed for the past three months, she’s grown to understand them. Her choice to stand by Elder infuriates her parents, especially her father who has become the de facto leader of the Earth-borns. And it isn’t made any easier by the appearance of Chris, a young soldier who takes an immediate liking to Amy. In most cases, when it comes to the romantic plotline of young adult novels, I could take it or leave it, but as I wrote in my review of the first two books, it was an interesting dilemma for Amy about whether or not she had a choice to love Elder, since he was basically the only male close to her age she thought she’d ever see. The introduction of Chris throws her an unexpected curveball, and results in a frustrating (but, I have to admit, plausible) love triangle plotline.
Fortunately for readers like me, the love triangle is only one of the subplots. There’s also a lot about the odd discoveries they make on the planet — right from the start they have a suspicion that something, or somebody, lives here already. The reality of what happened at Centauri-Earth ties into the mysteries surrounding the plague on Godspeed, and I was genuinely surprised at some of the answers. (One of the big reveals, however, was telegraphed a little too much and I had pretty much guessed beforehand, but I still enjoyed the book.)
I’d been looking forward to Shades of Earth ever since finishing A Million Suns, and I’m pleased to say that overall it’s a satisfying way to conclude the trilogy. I wasn’t always happy with the way that Amy and Elder behaved — but I had to remind myself that they are, after all, hormonal teenagers who don’t always make the most reasoned choices. It’s a great science fiction tale that I’d recommend for both teenagers and adults.
Disclosure: GeekDad received an advance reader copy of this book for review.