Book Review: A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Synopsis: Trapped on board the spaceship Godspeed, Amy trusts no-one. The ship's ruler is dead and a rebellion threatens. Amy wants to help Elder as he tries to take charge, but she's torn between her feelings for him and the chaos that's pulling everything apart. As more harrowing discoveries are made about Godspeed, Amy is caught in a desperate race to unravel its secrets. Only one thing is certain. They have to get off this ship.

Number of pages: 386

Rating: 9/10

Overall Impression: A great sequel to Across the Universe, it ramps up the tension and claustrophobia felt by all the characters, as it races to a climactic cliffhanger. It is, all at once, a crime novel and thriller with a dash of romance thrown in.
A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2)

A Million Suns (AMS) is the follow-up to Across the Universe (AtU), and it starts off where AtU left off without even a pause for breath. Elder is now the Eldest - by position, not by name -  and Amy is still a 'freak' and stuck on a spaceship millions of miles from their destination.

Unlike most young adult books with a female protagonist, this isn't told wholly from her perspective, but instead the story unfolds from the perspective of both Amy and Elder. As I have mentioned in other reviews of young adult literature, particularly of the dystopian genre, the female protagonist often ends up being vaguely (or not so vaguely) dislikeable. But in AMS (and AtU before it), the alternation of PoVs, I think, prevents this from happening.

I also like how life on board this massive, self-sustaining spaceship is portrayed from a "native" perspective. Elder's PoV provides the background for the world Amy now finds herself in. As Amy is from 'Sol-Earth', her reactions to events is probably very close to yours or my hypothetical reaction, but Elder's is not so predictable. For example, it may not be an event, but I thought it was very interesting how Elder reacted to Amy's apparent disregard for books. Elder treats them with reverence, doesn't want to damage Sol-Earth artefacts, while Amy, who is so used to having relatively unlimited resources - both environmentally and, in this case, education-wise - treats books as she always has done: like books.

Like I said, the plot does not faff about. The big bad secret is revealed pretty quickly: Godspeed has stopped moving. For Amy, this is devastating news. As far as she (and Elder) had known, the ship was not necessarily on its original schedule but was destined to reach Centauri-Earth in fifty-ish years time. Amy had resigned herself to a lifetime on ship, but with a promise she would get off this ship eventually. Now that dream/promise had been smashed to pieces. Amy's claustrophobia is palpable. I mean, who can even fathom one's entire 'world' where one can walk from one end of the other in less than half an hour? Or not feel a breath of real wind, real sunlight or even real rain? It's a wonder Amy is still sane...

But the secrets do not stop there. A trail of bread crumb clues leads Amy to discover an even bigger secret than the one Elder discovered. With Elder's help, despite his own troubles as sparkly new leader of a troubled ship, they discover something that changes everything for everyone on the ship.

Elder's problems stem mostly from being newly in charge of a ship that is not in its first flush of youth. He makes the decision of taking the population off of Phydus, a drug which is all at once a sedative, anti-depressant and pain reliever. Under the previous Eldest, Phydus helped keep the population under control, basically turning them all into automatons. Taking them off it allows the residents of the ship to start questioning. And they do. And a spate of murders gives Elder more than a few issues to contend with, as well as working out the real secret of Godspeed.

The twists and turns in the plot are positively mind-blowing. While I was sure the big capital-S secret was going to be exciting and whatnot, I was still knocked sideways by the reveals. There was not a lot of predictability going on. But that is a very good thing for a book like this!

The romance aspect of the book definitely plays second fiddle to the main plot. Which is a good thing. When the romance stuff does happen, it's like both Elder and Amy need it to feel like normal teenagers for a short time, escape from their current chaotic reality. But it does feel genuine, helped by seeing the feelings develop from both sides. Elder, on the one hand, is quite certain of his feelings towards Amy, while Amy debates whether she is feeling this way because there are no other options available. The romantic side of their relationship doesn't feel forced, but believable and satisfying.

I haven't given AMS a perfect score because I found myself wondering how it is possible to keep such a huge secret, well, secret. While the whole thrust of the plot is the fact that the Eldest system is in place to keep said secret, the fact that the Shippers, for example, know but haven't told anyone on the Feeder level a bit... suspect. Surely one of them couldn't contain themselves...

On the other hand, Revis' world-building is skillful and immersive. This mini-civilisation is fully-formed, with their own history and culture, which is fascinating.

I can't wait to get my hands on Shades of Earth because it will be interesting to see, not only the dangers they will have to face, but also how these people who have grown up on a spaceship deal with the outdoors. I have high hopes for SoE. And I have literally just discovered a novella, As They Slip Away (free .pdf download), that Revis has written and giving away for free! Win!

3 comments on "Book Review: A Million Suns by Beth Revis"

  1. Hey, i just tagged you for the liebster award, check out my blog for the information ;)

  2. I loved A Million Suns too! And Shades of Earth was so very good. I hope you get to it soon!

    1. It's on my to-read list! Trying to get through some books that have been gathering dust first but I may not be able to resist after that cliffhanger!