Aaru is a mild scifi fantasy. Confusingly, Amazon genre categories for this book differ, adding urban fantasy (Amazon UK) and New Adult (Amazon.com). As the two main characters are teenagers, the book may attract the YA reading audience; however, I believe some parts of the book are not suitable for this age group. Perhaps the book began life as one for a younger audience, but during the writing it developed in other directions.
Sixteen year old Rose is suffering from an incurable form of leukaemia. Her parents accept a large financial payment to allow her to be part of a new scientific experiment. I wanted to know a lot more about the decision made by Rose’s parents. For me, it was touched on only mildly and felt uncaring to the point of being unfeasible, because they were portrayed as knowing very little about the project. In the author’s mind, they may have done their research and spent many hours being persuaded by Elysian Industries, but this didn’t come across . To sum the project up: Elysian’s scientists have developed a computer programme, where a person’s soul can exist in a perfect virtual world.
Rose has a brain scan taken by Adam, from the project. I did feel the descriptions of the scanning equipment needed work, to make them portray the technology. Then Rose dies. At this point, I hadn’t built any link or empathy with Rose through the writing, so there was no reason for me to feel any loss. A few weeks later, Rose’s family are contacted by representatives of Elysian inviting them to a meeting. They reveal Rose is ‘alive and perfectly well’, in her new virtual world of Aaru. Elysian then want Rose’s thirteen year old sister, Koren, to head up their promotional campaign in support of Aaru.
Aaru is supposed to be a perfect place; Rose is one of the first residents and her job is to help create the world, by filling the blank canvas. In the real world, Koren is catapulted to celebrity status by a top PR team. During the promotion, she is spotted by a computer hacker/stalker who plots her demise and the downfall of the Aaru project.
This is a dialogue-led book with a large cast of characters, none of whom really came alive for me, I’m afraid. It’s a great plot, but I felt it needed the hand of a good content editor. Scifi and fantasy are, by definition, expected to push past our boundaries of reason, but developments still need to be believable within that fantasy, and for me, there were too many plot holes and under-developed areas alongside choices in dialogue technique that, I felt, needed extra attention.
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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.
About the author
David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He received both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee. He received his Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. On and off, he spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write and teach English.