I’m on a few publishers’ mailing lists for book reviews and every so often a synopsis drops in my mailbox which has me instantly intrigued. I had never heard of David Meredith before I received his email and, as it’s an independent release, I hadn’t heard of Aaru*, but the synopsis hooked me in straight away.
For the longest time I claimed to hate sci-fi and fantasy films and TV shows but it turns out that, as long as the characters are well written and I become emotionally invested, I can suspend my disbelief somewhat (Fringe, Continuum, Almost Human). So why not try giving it a go with a novel? I surprised myself by managing it with Raven Boys so I was willing to try again.
“…Death and the stillness of death are the only things certain and common to all in this future…”
Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.
She is sixteen years old.
Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure. A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death. Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model.
Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale.
What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger. Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.
Pretty epic, right? I could instantly imagine it as a TV show and wanted to give it a shot.
The story itself was pretty compelling and I liked that it kept posing questions about ethics and morality – who do you choose to save, how much do you charge, how many of their loved ones do you save, free will, religion, etc. And what about those left behind? Would you want to still be able to see and talk to someone you’ve loved and lost but never be able to hold them again, kinda like Facetiming the afterlife?
The characters were interesting too. On the one hand it’s a young adult book focusing on two teenage girls, one alive and one not so much. On the other hand it’s actually quite dark and twisted, with one character in particular disgusting me to my very core. Probably a book I wouldn’t encourage tweens to read.
Despite the intriguing plot I did find that it moved quite slowly most of the time (the drawn out football commentary was unnecessarily long and dull), sort of just plodding along until something exciting happened. And the more climactic moments felt rushed, particularly the ‘ending’. It felt like it had built up to this moment and was over in a few pages.
I was interested to see that this appears to be the first in the series and you know I always have to know how things end. So I’ll be waiting for the next installment.
*I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes and all thoughts are my own