This year I have made the vow to make a big dent in my TBR pile and today’s post represents the start of that process. I was sent this book by author David Meredith last year and it’s been patiently waiting to be read eventually getting it’s turn last month. Therefore, today I’m sharing my thoughts on this first book in The Aaru Cycle Series.
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.
After four long years of medical procedures and pain Rose is dying and unwilling to give any more ‘cures’ a try despite her family’s pleas. That is until a curious stranger arrives and offers to help her live her life as she was before she became sick, able to play sports and enjoy life. Not truly understanding what the man plans to do Rose allows him to scan her brain and monitor her activity by adding even more wires to her frail body.
Waking up, Rose realises she has left the ‘Before’ behind and is no longer living in a conventional sense, instead her essence has been uploaded into a computer which allows her to live within in a virtual world. As one of the first to be added to Aaru Rose is able to create her own world using the power she has been given with her only imitation being her imagination.
Meanwhile younger Sister, Koren, has been left behind in the real world to cope with her overwhelming grief at losing her best friend. But, just as things start to fall apart Koren and her family are taken to the HQ of Elysian Industries where for the first time they are introduced to Aaru and it’s capabilities. Able to communicate with the Sister she thought she’d lost Koren couldn’t be happier until she realises that her sister’s life has come at a price and she is required to front a public campaign to bring Aaru to the people. Thrown into the limelight she quickly becomes a well-know face, but not everyone is happy about this new technological development and life as she knows it begins to slip away.
It was the unique synopsis of this book that first grabbed my attention despite it not being my usual genre and Meredith has definitely delivered an intriguing read. The first part of the book is largely taken with the ‘Before’ as we meet Rose and despite her death and the family’s subsequent grief being such a difficult, emotion filled subject matter it is written perfectly. It explores the thoughts and feelings of all the character’s thoroughly and Meredith’s narrative gives an insightful, realistic insight.
Thereafter the narrative flips between the sister’s vastly differing experiences on either side of the computer screen. One of my favourite parts of this whole book were the sections which described Rose’s surroundings in her virtual world which are filled with a whole host of landscapes, buildings and unique creatures. The description of these sections is second to none and really drew me in and I could imagine that I was making the journey alongside Rose.
The chapter’s about Koren however are the polar opposite which gave the book a very dark edge that I didn’t expect. Fast-tracked to celebrity status as she promotes Aaru, Meredith explores her exploitation alongside the moral and ethical issues of ever lasting life. Whilst not wanting to add any spoilers I do have to point out that this book deals with some highly sensitive issues including kidnap, sexual assault and paedophilia which for a book aimed at YA readers may be too much for some – even as an adult I did feel uncomfortable at times.
So, in conclusion although this book was quite a lot darker than I initially expected I found the whole concept of Aaru intriguing and this kept me reading. It’s filled with emotion from start to finish and has a few little twists to keep the reader guessing along the way too. Finishing on a cliffhanger I’m now really keen to read the next instalment to see what happens next.
Aaru is available to purchase from Amazon*