Across the Universe, by Beth Revis: Kindle Sample (first four chapters)

Old-school science fiction, the sort a lot of old-school sf fans think teenagers ought to be reading: Amy and her parents are cryogenically frozen to board a generation ship; generations later, the ship has formed its own, undoubtedly dystopian, society. The old-fashioned impression is solidified by the dialogue in the first chapter, which could have been written thirty years ago.

I was initially put off by the dialogue and clunky exposition of the first chapter, not to mention the author’s apparent misunderstanding of the word “impartial.” But the believable emotions and the unexpected dilemma presented to Amy sucked me in, and the next chapter, which picks up with a teenage boy who has lived his whole life on the ship, also presents a compelling moral choice and some potentially interesting characters.

I am pretty sure I know exactly where the story is going, but I might well enjoy the journey. I’m not quite grabbed enough to buy it, but I’ll try it from the library.

Across the Universe

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver: Kindle Sample (First four chapters)

Yet another hard-to-swallow, thought-experiment, high-concept, single-idea-runs-everything dystopia: love has been declared a disease, and everyone is cured when they turn eighteen. Before then, physical contact is forbidden between people of the opposite sex. (Also, yet another book in which gay people apparently don’t exist.)

And yet another book which has marriages arranged by the government! The government also decides how many children you should have, what your major will be, and no doubt the color of the jumpsuit you wear.

The prose is not bad at all, but the concept and execution are so incredibly heavy-handed that I had trouble even getting through the sample. Love causes pain, eliminate love and you’ll be free from pain. Message: no gain without pain, savor the agony along with the ecstasy. Also, nanny government is bad. I can’t imagine reading an entire book of this.


I'm not really appreciating the high-concept, the government regulates the color of your shoelaces, everything in society is geared toward a single theme, heavy-handed dystopia. There's something inherently boring about them. I can think of good examples, but they're tough to pull off.

I nominate an end to that YA sf trend, to be replaced with massive trends for space opera with lots of aliens, multicultural steampunk, military academies in spaaaaace, biotech, mecha, and schools for mutant kids. If we must have dystopias, I'd prefer chaotic dystopias where everyone's scrabbling to survive and rebuild/preserve civilization in an unhospitable landscape, but without rape gangs or cannibalism and with hope - emphasis on survival and regrouping.

I am particularly done with the "[blank] has been banned" and "the government controls [blank]" dystopias. They're starting to seem like they were created by online dystopia generators. Here, have a few ideas, make a mint:

Vibrate: Sex has been banned and the government controls masturbation.

Go: Travel has been banned and the government controls pets.

Ouch: Sickness has been banned and the government controls pain.

Sweat: Sports have been banned and the government controls water.


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