A Million Suns
Growing pains can be a horrible thing, especially when those growing pains are experienced by hundreds of people. The birth of a new government, a new style of leading can also be terrible. On the star ship Godspeed, both things are happening simultaneously. As people grow more and more aware of themselves and each other, they gain an understanding of the past and all that has happened to them, and the fabric of their society slowly begins to come unravelled. Just goes to show that practicing to deceive really does weave a tangled web.
Elder is now in charge of the Godspeed. It is a big responsibility for a teenage boy, but he is the only one trained to understand the entire ship, and the only one people will accept in this position. In the last book we learned that for countless years a massive secret has surrounded all the decisions made on the ship. Elder is now the recipient of all the problems caused by that great mystery – but he has no knowledge of just what it is. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Elder has taken the citizenry off the Phydus, a mind altering drug that for generations pacified the people into near robot like obedience. Now, as they awaken to a new reality, rebellion simmers among those enslaved for so many years. Looking for someone to blame, they focus on outsider Amy, one of the frozens who was awakened early from her cryogenic chamber. With her red hair and fair skin, she stands out like a beacon among the mono ethnic, dark haired people of the Godspeed. Amy has more than just the hatred of her fellow shipmates to concern herself with, though.
It turns out Orion has left Amy a series of coded messages that reveal the big mystery that has guided life on the ship for generations, with the ominous sounding “Abandon All Hope” being clue number one. Amy immediately makes the link to what he is referring to with that vague piece of text, and thus begins her quest for answers to what exactly is happening on this odd world. Adding to the general stress of her life is her growing relationship with Elder, her confusion regarding her own feelings, a dangerous stalker named Luthor, and the mounting tensions regarding the frozens. Amy’s parents are among those awaiting planet landing to be woken, and the fear and hostility they may face is a serious worry for her. She also worries whether things will be allowed to get that far – what if they are jettisoned into space long before land is found?
As he helps Amy deal with Orion’s frustrating treasure hunt, Elder also deals with rebellions and dangers on every level of the ship. His new more democratic policies have not been popular with everyone and it is clear that at least one crew member intends to see them end. Permanently. As Elder deals with a shadowy nemesis and the frustrating mysteries of the Godspeed he vows that he will always follow an “honesty is the best policy” philosophy – until he finds out just what his ancestors have been trying to hide.
This excellent sequel leads us on a race against time as our teenage heroes race to solve the problems of the universe (literally) with hundreds of lives hanging in the balance. The author did an excellent job of both explaining why Orion had left the information in a series of clues and why he felt it was so important for Amy to be the one to solve those clues. The mystery could have been frustrating, but instead it worked out to be intriguing and riveting. A-ha moments were spaced well with confirmations of things you had already guessed. The stakes were appropriately high.
I really liked Amy and Elder as hero and heroine. Amy, with her knowledge of Sol-Earth and how life was lived there, her understanding of people, and her inquisitive nature has been the catalyst needed to finally solve the mystery of what is happening on board Godspeed. She is almost perfect for this position – an adult frozen would have tried to take over and get back on mission – but Amy has no desire to lead. She knows the mission of the ship in only the vaguest ways. Her sole purpose, which she works hard to fulfill, is solving the mystery and helping Elder do whatever is needed for the ship and the people on it to survive.
Elder is dedicated to his people and the ship they call home. With Amy’s help he is able to see that something is desperately wrong onboard the ship, and he is using everything at his disposal to fix things. But Elder also understands the people of Godspeed and he is determined to find the solution that’s best for them, not just what Amy thinks will be best for the frozens or herself. As a young man in love, this hasn’t been the easiest course for him to follow and he finds his budding romance with Amy in choppy waters as a result. In true heroic fashion he is willing to sacrifice even that relationship to the greater good. This allows us to see just what makes Elder a leader – he takes advice from everyone but ultimately sets his own course. This works because he is willing to sacrifice everything to the cause. While Amy may have more experience in the greater world, it is Elder who is the more mature. Combined they make a great team.
I love how the author uses her setting of a generations ship (a star ship meant to outlast several generations of the people who live on it). Discovering the world of the ship and how it has shaped the people who have lived there was really intriguing. The ship itself feels like a character within the story. It helps to both hide and reveal the mystery, and discoveries about the ship are actually discoveries about what is happening to the community. This blending of plot, settings, and characters makes for a unique and enticing read.
This is a wonderfully crafted science fiction tale. I was riveted from page one. I would recommend it to any fan of the genre, although I would urge you to start with Across the Universe since the series is actually one big story and requires being read in order. This ends on a cliff hanger and I find myself hotly anticipating book three.