It’s been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He’s finally free to enact his vision – no more Phydus, no more lies.
But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that’s growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.
-synopsis and cover art courtesy of goodreads.
Atmospheric Analysis: Perfect!
The cover of A Million Suns seems to have more in common with the paperback release of Across the Universe than the hardcover. And while I liked the infamous, star-splattered, upside-down nearly-kissing cover, I thought it oversold the romantic elements of the novel. Both Across the Universe and A Million Suns are just as much about the claustrophobic science fictional setting of the Godspeed as they are about Amy and Elder’s romance, and I think the circular design elements on both covers underscore that perfectly.
Planetary Class: Space opera! Yes, I know there are hints of dystopian world building here. And romance. And mystery. But it’s on a spaceship. In space.
Mohs Rating: There are giant vats of applied phlebotinum lurking on the starship Godspeed. I’d call this a 2 on the Mohs scale.
Planetary Viability: Speculative readers who were frustrated by slip-ups in the science of the first volume will be pleasantly surprised here. The core premise explores the impact of certain scientific realities on the citizens of the ship. Smaller science details–for example, medical patches that use tiny needles (they have transdermal patches on Earth, now! There’s no need to reinvent the wheel)–are sometimes used cartoonishly, but I suspect Revis is aiming for fairly soft-SF anyway.
Xenolinguistical Assessment: A Million Suns continues its predecessor’s tradition of presenting voicey, deeply-felt narration in two voices. The alternating narrators of this volume work better than those in other books that have gone this route (Crossed by Ally Condie and Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater come to mind) in that Elder and Amy are distinctive both in manner of speech and the way they look at the world. Amy’s passages, particularly, are lovely and emotionally fraught, and the way that Elder tries his damnedest to maintain control despite his own inexperience comes clearly across in Revis’s crisp prose.
Expanded Report: I’ll admit that it’s a bit difficult to discuss A Million Suns, Beth Revis’s follow-up to last year’s NY Times bestselling Across the Universe, without gratuitously spoiling it. That’s because its very premise is predicated on the kind of twist that’s made all the more delicious when it sneaks up on you; where once the “spaceship fueled by lies” tagline seemed mildly snark-worthy, its spooky accuracy soon becomes clear. So please bear with me as I do my best.
I can say that this volume sees Elder taking control of the interstellar ship Godspeed. Now faced with an agitated populace, Elder struggles with squashing a growing rebellion. And Amy bears the weight of the sexual assault she endured in the previous book and tries to figure out her place on a ship where she’ll never fit in.
This is heady stuff, complex social science fiction that asks deep questions about agency while also leaving few emotional stones unturned for our young protagonists. The primary question here is one of free will–should the people of the Godspeed have it, even if it poses a danger for the fragile society of the ship? Should Elder lead just because he was born to do so? Is Amy really choosing Elder, or do they care for each other only because there’s no one else around who will have them? In the hands of a less-capable writer, these musings might be ponderous. But A Million Suns is anything but.
Like Across the Universe, this is fast-paced, riveting writing. I’d almost forgotten how fundamentally engaging that story was, how it swiftly carries you along until it’s three a.m. and you really need to sleep, but can’t because you really need to read just one. more. chapter. It also has a wild, untamed quality that perfectly accentuates the narrative chaos our heroes endure. The Godspeed is, once again, vividly rendered. I felt claustrophobic and trapped reading this book, just as I did when I read Across the Universe. They’re both hypnotic and strangely immersive works.
Unfortunately, they both suffer from the same primary problem: an unnecessary mystery thrown into an already complex mix of genres. I understood the presence of this mystery better in Across the Universe. It felt truly extraneous here, a distraction from the more pressing narrative concerns of society building and integration. Worse, it wasn’t all that mysterious–I figured out most of the twists well before they were revealed.
But that’s hardly reason to give such a strongly-written volume–and series–a pass. A Million Suns is a worthy sequel to its predecessor, and I honestly can’t wait to read what happens to Amy and Elder next.
And now to announce our winner of our Big AtU/AMS giveaway! The signed paperback of Across the Universe–and advanced copy of A Million Suns goes to . . . ANGIE S.! Congratulations to Angie! We’ll be in touch via email shortly, and thanks so much to all who entered.