So this week I was reading Across the Universe, a YA/SF novel by Beth Revis, in which colonists from Earth are loaded into a gigantic spaceship and sent to Alpha Centauri to see about setting up shop there:
Now, the astute reader will note that I put the “YA” before the “SF” up there, and that’s because the YA vibe from this book is much stronger than the SF vibe, with a lot of love-at-first-sight type stuff where the main characters can’t stop thinking about each others’ eyes or pouty lips or whatever, even in the midst of a generalized societal crisis aboard their spaceship. But that’s not to say the there’s no SF here; in fact, the book leads off with the single most horrifying description of putting people into cryosleep for a long space flight that I have ever seen or read. You know how, in most SF, when it’s time for cryosleep, the characters just take off their clothes and climb into a capsule?
And when they wake up, they’re just a little groggy and need a bowl of cereal and some coffee before they get down to business?
Well, that isn’t how it works in Across the Universe. Not at all. In Across the Universe, first, you get all your blood replaced by some kind of blue gunk that keeps your cells from exploding when the material inside them freezes. Then you get a giant tube shoved down your throat into your stomach. Then you get not one, not two, but three sets of wiring harnesses/sensors shoved down the tube. Then you get your eyelids glued shut. And only then do you get flash-frozen for the trip. And did I mention that you are conscious for this entire, extremely painful, procedure? As those who have been around here for a few years may recall, I’ve had my share of unpleasant and/or excruciating experiences, and even so, this cryosleep procedure is nothing I would come within a hundred miles of. As one of the technicians performing it says, “Don’t know why anyone would sign up for this.”
But anyway, the scene where one of the main characters gets put into cryosleep is right at the beginning of the book, and that’s not where today’s Teaser comes from. It comes from the middle of the book, where, having been awakened earlier than expected—a procedure which is basically the reverse of the freezing process, only faster—said main character is now examining the artificial sun under which plants are grown aboard the giant spaceship:
Smack in the middle is a bright yellow-orange ball of light. It doesn’t hurt to look at it like it hurts to look at the sun, but it’s still painful. Maybe if I’d never seen the sun, I would be impressed by this glowing source of light and heat made by man. But I have seen the sun, and it is not this tiny false thing, it is so much grander than that. I stare at it until my eyes prick with water, and when I blink away, I keep my eyes shut longer than I need to.
Images of broken light dance behind my eyelids. How could this giant lamp compare to the sun?
Hmm, “images of broken light”? I see what you did there, Beth Revis. Seems like it’s time to pull up the song from which the title of this book is taken. And, me being me, it’s not going to be the original Beatles version, it’s going to be the Fiona Apple cover version from the film Pleasantville*.
🎵 Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes, they call me on and on across the universe … 🎵
Now, at this point of a Teaser Tuesday for the past year or so, I’ve included a Teaser from one of my existing books, since I haven’t been working on a new one in a while. I did try, after finishing editing on Father’s Books, to return to the fantasy novel I had previously been working on, The Apprentice, but I was having significant trouble picking up the old plot threads I had left off some years earlier, and eventually decided I needed to take a break. Well, I recently decided to dip my toe back into the writing of new things, but instead of The Apprentice I’ve turned my attention to another unfinished fantasy novel that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned before. This one is called Blue Roses and I had fewer than 10,000 words into it when I put it aside, probably over 10 years ago, meaning it’s much more of a fresh start than The Apprentice. So for this Teaser Tuesday, you get a couple of sentences from the page of Blue Roses that I’m currently working on:
The track was lined with old, gnarled pepper trees and a few scrubby pines and Baxter could feel his tires bumping and slipping over roots as he moved into the shade beneath them. He guided the car carefully as the putative road curved to the left, letting the ruts guide his tires, to a certain extent, as if he were a train on the rails. When the car passed behind some bushes, he decided that was far enough, stopped, and took a look around. He had entered a sort of dry glade where there was a stretch of open ground beneath the trees; a creek bed ran alongside it at the bottom of the cliff, carrying rainy-season runoff from the gullies that raked the slope. At the moment it was dry and full of scruffy, scraggly bracken, some of which sported ragged and discolored plastic bags that hung like sad pennants on a forgotten battlefield.
What is Baxter doing in that glade? Well, I sort of know, but since the way I write is to have a starting point and a point I want to arrive at without planning the actual route for how to get there, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
* Interestingly, and probably coincidentally, Pleasantville and Across the Universe have some pretty significant thematic similarities, although I would have to say Pleasantville does them better.
2 thoughts on “Teaser Tuesday: “Across the Universe””
Eh, I can’t say I’m keen on the YA power here, but that might be because of books I’ve read by a mushy adult author before. There’s a murder, a killer on the loose, all hell breaks out. The lead detective just can’t help but make googley eyes and have sex in between each suspect interview, then fall in love in the first day of meeting a stranger.
That said, I kinda like the idea of blood out, blue gunk in. If you go to a disco with the neons on, will you glow blue? That’d be pretty awesome. Not so much the eyelids being glued shut. That’ll be painful on the other side.
Blue Roses, that’s got an alluring ring to it. It must be strange picking something up from over a decade ago that was started to a smaller degree, then trying to pick up the threads. Do you find it frustrating and difficult, or an enjoyable challenge? I’m curious. x
I actually got pretty frustrated with “The Apprentice” because so much of it was done and it was clearly going somewhere, and I knew where it was going, but when I picked it back up after so long I just couldn’t seem to make progress getting it there. Of course this was also in the near aftermath of The Event and it may have been too soon to take on finishing an old novel at that point. (I did finish “Father’s Books” after The Event but that was almost entirely copy editing at that point.) It’s too soon to tell yet what’s going to happen with “Blue Roses” I think but it does feel good to be writing fiction again ― not that it isn’t fun to write about what Lulu and The Hipster Kitties are doing but there I’m basically just a journalist document completely true actual events as you know. 😉