Aaru by David Meredith is the first review copy I’ve received and I’m so excited to review it! A big thank you to the author for sending it to me! That being said, this will be an honest review. So without further ado, let’s get started!
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.
I found the premise of this book very interesting. Death is something we have all thought about and changing the ‘rules’ has a lot of story potential. That potential was reached in the second half of the book as there were a lot of questions asked and realisations had. I particularly liked that, as it was the main reason for me picking up the book.
“Aaru is a different place , she mused, but just like Hana had said it was not a perfect place. It was not Heaven. It was a new place with new problems, but it was still very much life as she had known it before. The thought was both disappointing and comforting at the same time. She still had worries and cares. She still had issues with her relationships. The flying was nice, she thought with a giggle and so was the not falling down and scraping your knees or breaking your arm, but it was still just life.”
In the first half of the novel, Aaru was presented just a bit too perfect. Everyone is always happy there. That’s not right. If you lose a lot of emotions, you lose a sense of humanity too. Humans can’t always be happy. During the second half of the novel, there are these slight changes and ultimately the main character Rose realises that it’s okay that she is not always happy in Aaru, that it makes her human.
Now let’s talk about the characters. The story is told from three POV’s. First there’s Rose. In the first chapter she dies, so right of the bat the story starts with a bang. It’s not the last we hear from her though as she awakens in a place called Aaru. I did like Rose and I felt for her through her struggles.
There’s also Rose’s sister, Koren. She remains in the real world and she has a lot to deal with herself. Her sister dying, then being able to see her again and her fame as she is used to show the world what Aaru is, amongst other things. I liked Koren less. In a way, she felt unrealistic. I’m about the same age as her and the things she did often seemed very childish to me.
Lastly, there is also Magic Man. We never get to know his real name. I appreciated his character. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely didn’t like him. There’s something infinitely wrong with him and often I felt uncomfortable reading his POV. He did add a lot to the story though. (TW for stalking, child pornography, pedophilia and sexual assault)
I didn’t have any specific feelings on any of the other characters but Hana. I found her manipulative and I had a weird feeling whenever she was around. She didn’t do anything particularly bad, it was just a feeling.
I had a few struggles with the writing style. It felt a bit stiff at times. The contrast between the language used by Koren for example and the language used for the descriptions was very big. I felt that it would have been a bit better if either Koren used more difficult words or the descriptions used simpler words.
As for the plot, the book started out good. The first chapter gripped my attention. Yet for the rest of the first half of the book, I was rather bored. It’s not that nothing happened. It’s just that it wasn’t that interesting to me. The second half of the book was better though, starting with the introduction of Magic Man. Not everything was perfect anymore and questions were starting to get asked. I got what I was expecting from the novel. The ending was very thrilling.
The last thing I want to talk about is the sexual assault included in this novel. There are two cases of this. One is handled well and the other isn’t handled as well. I’m going to explain in the next paragraph, but keep in mind there will be mild spoilers.
The first case is the one that isn’t handled all that well in my opinion. Koren is at a party and she meets a certain someone she admires a lot there. He slowly gives her more and more alcohol until she is drunk. This part was written very well. It’s hard to write from the perspective of a drunk person and I felt like it was realistic. I believed she was drunk. (Keep in mind that as a mere 15-year-old I haven’t been drunk, so this might not be accurate.) Anyway, he then convinces her to take him to her room where he makes his move on her. Koren doesn’t really want this, but she lets it happen because it’s her idol. Before anything too serious can happen Koren’s father bursts in and stops it. The father handled it well even though he too was drunk. My problem with this whole situation was that it was never addressed as sexual assault, while it clearly was. Koren’s anger is directed at her father instead of at the person who assaulted her and that’s just not right.
The second case was handled a lot better. From the start it was handled as sexual assault. I think the difference is that this time the rapist wasn’t someone Koren admired. I don’t want to say more, because this is more important in the story and as it is handled well I don’t think an explanation is necessary. Even though I was disappointed in the novel because of the first case, I was glad to see that at least this second case was handled better.
Overall I gave this book two out of five stars. It was an interesting read. I hope you enjoyed this review. See you next time!