SciFi Review Double Feature: Across the Universe and Oblivion

Though the book Across the Universe by Beth Revis and the new blockbuster and Tom Cruise flick Oblivion have several differences, they also have several similarities. They are both science fiction. I greatly anticipated reading Across the Universe just as I greatly anticipated seeing Oblivion. They both involve characters who have been lied to about their way of life. They were both somewhat disappointing in some ways, but overall not bad.

acrosstheuniverse (1)The book ATU is told from dual POVs, alternating between Amy and Elder. Amy is a normal girl who is cryogenically frozen on a ship with her parents to travel 300 years through space to a new planet (for reasons that are never fully explained by the way… I hope to find out why in later books). Elder, hundreds of years later, is learning under the ship’s leader Eldest as to how he will take on the role one day. Their worlds collide Amy’s pod is unplugged and she is unfrozen before schedule, and she must adjust to life on the ship that feels like a foreign country to her.

The good: The overall premise. The intrigue of the secrets that are hidden and the lies that are told. Minor character Harley. Revis does a good job of painting the contrasts between Amy’s world and the world of the ship. Of course some of it is obvious because Amy undoubtedly does not live very far off in the future from us, but the way she even describes the different dialect in which the ship people speak is a nice detail I appreciated.

The OK: Amy and Elder. Sometimes I liked them, sometimes they bugged me a little. Elder had the potential to be great, but he could be weak at times and was a little too obsessed with Amy. I understand that he has been lied to his whole life, so of course his viewpoint is going to be hard to change, but it seems like he’s been questioning things for… a little while? It’s unclear how long Elder has been obsessed with wanting to know what real stars look like and has been tired of Eldest not teaching him things. I did think Amy’s emotional journey was well displayed, and I think most of the time she displayed a strength that I appreciated, but she had some moments were I was not in love with her either.

The bad: An actual science fiction feel to the story is lacking, which some people might like. I don’t even have a super duper great love for the genre (yes, I am a Trekkie, but I like the stories and characters more than the actual science fiction), but I felt like it had the potential to tell the type of story that only science fiction can tell. The technology was good, and the ship was fine, but this could have been an epic story about humanity. Well, I guess this was somewhat a story about humanity, but it fell a little flat and did not feel epic. Also, I will never understand why Amy agreed to be frozen when her Dad gave her the chance to walk away. (Mild spoiler) Was it because of what she learned about Jason and she didn’t want to face him again? (Mild spoiler over) Or is it that she really loved her Dad more than her life (or she loved him more than she has common sense)?  Maybe I have seen too many Star Trek episodes, but when you get frozen for a journey through space, things never go well. I would have running like heck in the other direction.

The ugly: THE SEASON. OMG. GROSS.GROSS.GROSS. I know that was kind of the point but YIKES, I don’t think we needed it to be so emphasized.

And then there is the end. A little bit of a spoiler here: They decide it’s OK to majorly impact/kill people because they’ve been mean to them. I don’t know, I just feel like the last few chapters should have gone through a major revision. The plot builds up to this big reveal of uncovered secrets and who has been unplugging people, and then it’s resolved in a way that is going to majorly impact things  and they sort of just shrug it off. Yes, those people were bad and needed to be dealt with but again… I don’t know. I just would have liked for it to have wrapped up a bit differently.

I plan to get around to the sequels eventually, but I’m willing to go through other books in my TBR pile first.


Jack Harper’s job is to remain on post-nuke-war-with-aliens Earth for a time to maintain droids. The job of the droids to seek out the alien Scavs and eliminate them. Prior to this job, however, Jack says he was required to go through a memory wipe. Yet he has dreams that feel like memories, and finds himself wondering about and reveling in old, pre-war Earth. His partner (both romantically and professionally), Victoria, is not as interested. She is ready to finish their work and to head to Titan (Saturn’s largest moon, in case you need the reminder) where most of Earth’s inhabitants have gone.

Or so they’ve been told.

Like Elder in Across the Universe, Jack has been told things about his life, but he slowly discovers that things may not be as they seem. As things unravel, they get interesting, especially when we meet Julia, who Jack has seen in his dreams, and a man named Beech who wants to show Jack the truth. However, I felt confused and at the end of the movie I had more questions than answers. Thankfully, a conversation with my husband resolved most of them, but there were still many things left unclear, particular motives. And there are some plot holes that will just always leave some things feeling unfinished. I also did not appreciate how the villain in this movie is basically nameless, faceless, and the motive is completely unknown. It just makes the whole story not seem worthwhile. But the struggle and the backdrop are interesting, and I wanted to explore it all more. I feel it’s hard to say much more about the movie without giving too much away, and I think it’s a good movie to see “blind,” so I’ll leave it at that.

Both stories had a lot of potential and some interesting twists, but overall felt a little flat. But since the rides were mostly enjoyable, I give both the book ATU and the movie Oblivion 3 out of 5 stars.

By the way, there are reveals in both of these stories that are the same as well, but it would be a huge spoiler for both to reveal it, so I’ll just leave it at that.

So if you’ve read ATU or seen Oblivion, let me know what you thought!

12 thoughts on “SciFi Review Double Feature: Across the Universe and Oblivion

  1. I actually really enjoyed Oblivion. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen, but it was the most all-around solid movie I’ve seen in a while. I appreciated the fact that it managed to take several stalwart notions of science fiction and blend them together in a new way that didn’t bore me. I didn’t find any of the twists particularly shocking, but they were still enjoyable, well done, and well-timed. Just about the time I had decided they just weren’t going to ever bring the flight recorder up again, he brought it out and listened to it.

    As for your issue with the ‘faceless enemy’, I see where you’re coming from but I disagree. I like that aspect of it. Why should we know the precise motivations of an alien race come to off and/or enslave us? When would we get a chance to sit down and have a nice chat about it between trying to kill them and trying not to get killed? It also says something *SPOILER* about the ultimate insignificance of humanity within the context of the galaxy that we could simply be disposed of by what amounts to an automated mechanism performing a standard task put before it.

    All in all, while I agree that it could have drawn me in and made me care a bit more, I’d have to say that I think it belongs in the upper-tier of scifi movies. Let’s face it, while scifi movies are generally a lot of fun and entertaining, they’re rarely all that GOOD. And a lot of them are flat out bad. To me, this one belongs on the top shelf. But that’s just me.

    • I appreciate your thoughts. My expectations for this movie were extremely high, probably too high, so that is probably part of my problem. I see what you are saying about the enemy and agree with you pragmatically, I guess I just wanted to know everything and thought it would help the climax “click” better for me, if that makes sense.

      • I understand. It’s different for everyone. That’s one of the beauties of all art forms. There are plenty of examples where my thought process mirrors yours (Lost anyone?), so I get it.

  2. Across the Universe: Many of your questions will be answered in the subsequent books. I actually grew to like both Amy and Elder much better in book 2, so hopefully you will as well. Thanks for reminding me about The Season, though. Eeugh, SO GROSS. And creepy.

    You’ve made me a bit more curious about this Oblivion movie, but I doubt I can get my husband to see it with me until it’s on Netflix. Sigh!

    • I’m glad to know my questions will be answered! When reading or watching something I always have a fear that the writer will forget something and leave me wondering!

  3. I haven’t read Across the Universe, and for some reason I didn’t even know Oblivion existed until seeing this post. Sometimes I swear I live under a rock! All these new movies keep coming out and I have no idea they exist until someone tells me. Lame. I’m not sure if I’ll read ATU, but I might check out Oblivion sometime. I have too many books to read!

    • That’s understandable! Yeah, I would recommend checking out Oblivion if it sounds interesting to you, though I wouldn’t say it’s a movie you have to see in theaters necessarily.

  4. I’ve read the book and seen the movie, and I agree with you completely that their stories could have been developed better. In ATU I didn’t like Elder at all, I thought he was too pushy when he shouldn’t and too complacent when he should be rebelling. I don’t know, I just didn’t like this book very much and as sci-fi fan (and a Trekkie) it just didn’t do it for me. Oblivion was pretty much the same: it didn’t reach it’s potential. I hated the ending too, I mean *spoiler alert* there were more than just two of him right? What about the others, they’d never have a Julia of their own? I just didn’t like it.
    Also, how exited are you for the new Star Trek movie? Because I can’t wait! I hope it’s as good as the first (if not as good as the original series).

    • *Oblivion spoilers* That did seem a little odd, that there were multiples of him and the one finds Julia years later… but what about all the other ones running around? What if one of the others finds her? “Sorry, I already hooked up with another one of you guys”? And now that the droids are gone, what happens to the other Jacks without a job to do and no “Sally” to send a droid to kill them off? Again, I liked it well enough, but there were some serious plot holes and I think it could have been really great with a few more script rewrites.

      I am WAY excited about the new Star Trek movie! I liked the 2009 one a lot, but after I finished the entire run of Star Trek TV shows and then re-watched the movie, I actually got a little mad at Abrams for blowing up Romulus and Vulcan. BUT I’m trying to get over it, I think the cast is really great, and I think Benedict Cumberbacth’s character is going to be a much better villain than who we had last time.

      • I totally agree about the plot holes, they tried to do too many things and it ended up not connecting well. I was pretty disappointed.
        Since it’s my dad’s favorite series I basically grew up watching the original series, Kirk and Picard basically, I didn’t think the 2009 movie was perfect. But I love it a lot! I think Benedict’s going to be wonderful as Khan! Can’t wait to see it 😀

  5. I read the whole ATU series. I actually liked the ending of the first one, but I can see your point, and the love story between Amy and Elder sort of bugged me throughout the whole series – I guess I never quite felt that connection between them. Still, I really liked the last book a lot, and overall I enjoyed these books. Not the best ones I’ve ever read, but I’m glad I picked them up.

    • Good to know the last book is good! I don’t think the ending bothered me too much until I wrote my review and really started thinking more about it. I didn’t hate the ending, but some of it seemed a little sloppy.

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