|A glimpse of the Godspeed's|
blueprints from Beth's website.
The Godspeed is a generational sleeper ship. The colonists are frozen for the 300-year (or so) voyage. Meanwhile generations of crew are born, live, work, and die on the Godspeed without ever even seeing the stars. The colonists aren’t supposed to wake up until they reach their destination. However, Amy is woken up early and experiences the society that has developed over the centuries on the ship. (We could talk all day about the society on the Godspeed, but I don’t want to give anything away. )
Beth paints a vivid picture of the experience. A lot of fiction imagines the cryo process something akin flash freezing peas. Someone flips a switch, and then you wake up a thousand years later as fresh as the day went into the freezer. (Think Fry on Futurama. Or Woody Allen in Sleeper) In AtU, Beth does not gloss over how it must feel to be vitrified.
Hassan squeezed the bag of blue goo again. A line of blood trickled from under Mom’s teeth where she was biting her lip.
“This stuff, it’s what makes the freezing work.” Ed spoke in a conversational tone, like a baker talking about how yeast makes bread rise. “Without it, little ice crystals form in the cells and split open the cell walls. This stuff makes the cell walls stronger, see? Ice don’t break ’em.” He glanced down at Mom. “Hurts like a bitch going in, though.”
And this is just Amy watching her mom go through it. The process is agonizing for Amy, and the her poor neurons are still firing during her long journey. Check out the AtU trailer for a taste of how Beth so adeptly handles this part:
(And yes, that’s Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under narrating!)
Need a bigger taste? Check out the first chapter of Across the Universe.
So, kudos to Beth for tackling the “reality” of the vitrification process head-on. It’s one of the many things that makes ACROSS THE UNIVERSE great science fiction—and an epic story.
So, you may be wondering how far-fetched (or far in the future) is the whole sleeper ship—or cryonics thing in general? You’ve probably heard about people wanting to be frozen after they die. (The whole Walt Disney thing is a myth, BTW. Baseball great Ted Williams, however, was indeed frozen—and evidently his body was not treated well.) There are a few places in the world (Alcor, Cryonics Institute) that will freeze you or your pet immediately following death. (In the US, you have to be legally dead before being frozen. Sorry, vitrified.) But no one is even close to being able to revive a corpsicle, let alone a still living “sleeper.” If you’re interested in the freezing process these places use, check out this Channel 5 documentary.
Given what you know now, would you sign up to take a sleeper ship across the universe? Or if you had an incurable (now) disease, would you want to be frozen with the hope of being revived--and hopefully cured a few centuries from now?