by Beth Revis
To be published by Razorbill
on January 15, 2013
Brief non-spoilery series summary:
In book one, Across the Universe, Amy and her parents are cryogenically frozen in preparation for a 300-year journey to a new planet, Centauri-Earth. But Amy is inexplicably defrosted fifty years too early and faces life on the spaceship Godspeed, alone among strangers. To make matters even worse, someone is unplugging her frozen counterparts and watching them die.
Elder is heir apparent to Eldest, the leader of Godspeed. He's intrigued by Amy, who is not only the only person his age on board the ship, but also the only person he's ever seen with pale skin and red hair. He fights both his attraction to her and his fears about becoming a leader.
In A Million Suns, the characters continue to face plenty of obstacles. After being attacked in book one, Amy is nervous and shaken, missing her life on earth and longing to be reunited with her parents, who are tantalizingly close but heartbreakingly silent in their cryo-boxes. Elder finds leadership abruptly thrust upon him and struggles with his confidence. Amy goes on a scavenger hunt for hidden messages that reveal secrets about Godspeed and the truth behind its mission. Meanwhile, Elder deals with a mutinous population, a tail of bodies left by a mysterious killer, and his own self-doubt.
In Shades of Earth -- this can't be a spoiler because it's in the frexing title -- a contingent from Godspeed actually reaches Centauri-Earth. Amy can't wait to unfreeze her parents and be on solid ground again. But their new home isn't as hospitable as they'd hoped. They're faced with dangerous flora and fauna and ... is there something out there? Something alive that's trying to kill them?
My take: Sci-fi isn't usually my genre of choice, but I really enjoyed this series. First of all, Beth Revis puts a healthy dose of mystery in each book -- there's a trail of murdered bodies in each one -- and also weaves in literary references, history, and social and political theory. Books written by authors who are well-read themselves are always a pleasure to read.
There were many, many things about Shades of Earth that I loved. First of all, I'm mildly claustrophobic, so I was SO glad to get Amy not only out of the cryo-box, but off that ship and onto land. The book cleverly contrasts the reactions of the earth-born and the ship-born to being on Centauri-Earth. While the former are elated, the latter are terrified. The ship is all they've ever known and they're afraid to leave it.
All three books in the series have also looked at issues of power and leadership, of community and discord. In Shades of Earth, the ship-born contingent (led by Elder) immediately begin to butt heads with the so-called "frozens," most of whom have military backgrounds. This is not only a realistic scenario, but adds conflict as the two groups argue over how to handle a multitude of decisions.
I've always felt that this series is more plot-driven than character-driven, and while Amy and Elder don't have huge growth arcs, they do face a new set of challenges in this book, which presents an awesome twist on a YA Trend I Am Ready To Break Up With by giving us not dead parents, but frozen ones. I loved the fact that, for two books, Amy has been essentially parent-free, and in this book that changes, causing more friction. Elder began to adjust to leadership in A Million Suns, and now that leadership is threatened by the "frozens." (I just love that term!) Then there's the mysterious, possibly sinister FRX (Financial Resource Exchange -- is it an accident that kind of spells "frex?"-- the organization that funded their mission.
As mentioned above, all these books contain a murder mystery and Shades of Earth is no exception. People are dropping like flies and nobody is sure exactly who or what is killing them. I love mysteries, so I was crazy about this part. Yes, I did guess the person responsible, but I thought the mystery was well-done. Plus, this book was super-suspenseful, and not afraid to show us some truly dark and grim moments.
The blurb for Shades of Earth recommends it to fans of Battlestar Gallactica. I have never seen a single epidode of that show and it's not on my bucket list. What Shades of Earth reminded me of was the TV series LOST. I don't want to list all the parallels due to spoilers, but the various conflicting factions, the mysterious research initiatives, the dangers lurking outside -- there were some definite parallels and I loved that.
I was not completely sold on one aspect of the ending of Shades of Earth. I recognize that it's hard to end a series in a way that gets every single reader on board, especially if there's a love triangle, which thankfully isn't an issue here. Without spoilers, let's just say that the book did such a good job at showing that none the different factions -- the shipborns, the frozens, the FRX, and whatever might live on Centauri-Earth -- are morally pure, it was hard for me to accept that the whole mess could be resolved that quickly. Alliances had to be made in a split second, and I can't go all kumbaya and think that those alliances will last any longer than YA instalove. In my imagination, these characters still have a lot of obstacles to face.
I'm sad to see this series end, but I can't wait to see what Beth Revis cooks up for us next. Given some of the truly horrific moments in Shades of Earth, I'm putting my money on horror.