Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Million Suns by Beth Revis | Book Review

TITLE: A Million Suns
AUTHOR: Beth Revis
PUBLISHER/YEAR: 2012/Razorbill 
SERIES: Yes, this is the second book in the Across the Universe trilogy
SOURCE: Local Library 

Goodreads / Author's Website

Godspeed was once fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. 

It’s been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. Everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed.

But there may be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to act on his vision—no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder learns shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a mystery that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Their success—or failure—will determine the fate of the 2,298 passengers aboard Godspeed. But with each step, the journey becomes more perilous, the ship more chaotic, and the love between them more impossible to fight.

Thoughts and Reactions
It's been awhile since I read Across the Universe, probably over year (my review is here) and while I wasn't too invested in it I always meant to read its sequel A Million Suns. It just wasn't at the top of my list. I got more into Across the Universe as it went on, but it took me awhile to get into it and I remember putting it down and picking it back up days later more than once. Fast forward to now and I'm laid up at home with a cracked rib and I decide to pick a book randomly, by number, off of my Goodreads To Be Read list because why not. This oh-so scientific method led me to checking out A Million Suns and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself liking it better than its predecessor. 

A Million Suns was action packed from the start. It didn't need all the exposition of the first book and automatically had more tension since it basically just picked up from where the first book left off. I'll warn you now to be careful reading ahead in this review since there might be spoilers for Across the Universe coming up. The first book ended with Orion, the man who had been killing Frozens, frozen himself, but he's left clues for Amy to find so that she can help decide the future of the ship. There are secrets everywhere and now that Elder (now Eldest, but he's kept the old name) has taken the ship off of Phydus everybody is angry, some because Elder represents the people who kept them slack jawed and glassy eyed for so long and some because they're now horribly depressed being stuck on the ship and want Phydus back. 

The best thing that happened to this series so far is everybody getting taken off of Phydus. It's inherently more interesting to read about a group of people with varying opinions who are free to make their own choices than it is to read about a completely drugged city. The threat of revolution is what kept me turning the pages and parts of it verged on being a political thriller. It was captivated by character like Bertie who wanted to lead a revolution and how people began to turn against each other as they tried to figure out what they actually wanted. While I was rooting for Elder the entire time; some of the things that the people were saying made a lot of sense. Elder is not a strong leader; he is kind and he cares about his people, but he does not have their respect and if you lose the respect of the people, how effective can you be? It was interesting to see control slipping from the previously dictatorial ship. 

Amy herself became a more interesting character. I don't remember too much about her from the first book; I remember her actions, but I don't necessarily remember my opinions on her. For me, that sums up a lot. She didn't make a memorable impression on me. Her character  picks up a bit in A Million Suns. Not only does she have more people to interact with, but she has something to do. It's understandable that a character would be entirely thrown by the circumstances that she finds herself in, but I find it's more interesting to read about somebody doing something. She has a task in this book; Orion has left her clues and she must solve them to help decide the fate of the ship. I like the mystery, treasure hunt aspect. It added to the story and helped keep me interested. 

I like that the romance in this series doesn't overpower the rest of the story. It's clearly an element and it's two teenagers trying to figure out their feelings, but there are much bigger things going on. The ship is collapsing, both the physical and social infrastructure and it's really up to Amy and Elder to figure out what actions to take. It's more of a B plot line which makes a lot of sense. I also really like that Amy is hesitant and tries to make rational decisions and despite her feelings, waits and doesn't just immediately get involved with Elder. She doesn't fully trust him and isn't willing to give up all of herself. 

The one downside for me is the focus on rape scenes. Rape is terrible and when sexual assault is dealt with in literature in a way that adds to our current discussions that can be helpful. However, too often in books and on film rape is used to show how evil a character is. There are people out there who discuss this far more eloquently than I ever can, but it comes down to asking the question isn't there a better way to show evil than using gendered violence? Is there any other way to show that this character is completely evil without using sexual assault in a way that adds to no discussions? There are very few stories that I've seen utilize rape in an effective and non-exploitative manner and I'm not convinced that the rapes were necessary to A Million Suns.

Overall I enjoyed A Million Suns and it's made me want to sit down and finish the series. It was fast paced and action packed. It kept me turning the pages as quickly as I could and despite the minor issues I had with it, I enjoyed it far more than I enjoyed its predecessor. Beth Revis has written a science fiction novel that I thoroughly enjoyed and that's a rare feat. 

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