(I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All comments and thoughts are my own).
Aaru is one of those books that you think you understand but by the last page you realize you were wrong. There are two stories here but one is much deeper than the other.
Rose is a 16 year old who is dying of cancer. All the treatments have failed and she is being made comfortable for her last days. As a last ditch effort to save her, her parents sign Rose up for an experimental new system called Aaru.
Aaru is a computer system that copies and uploads a person’s brain and personality into a computer system. The person is able to live on digitally even though their body has died.
As Rose adjust to her new “life” her sister Koren is finding a way to live a new life of her own. She is made the spokesperson for the new technology but quickly learns what happens when you are forced into the spotlight at a young age. She is thrust into this role that begins to destroy who she is and puts her life and well-being in danger.
What I loved/enjoyed:
Aaru was a beautifully created world. I had no problem imaging this new place. It was vivid and alive. I felt like I was inside this computer program as they built it into a new home. I liked the system even though I didn’t quite understand why some aspects were chosen. Why there were Lords and Ladies or rankings didn’t quite get adequately explained but that didn’t keep me from sinking into this new world.
I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of what could be done and how things were made and changed. There was one scene in particular where Rose and her friends play a game of soccer that was exciting. I was enraptured by the game and how they used their new home and powers to make it more than just a simple and easy game of soccer.
I also liked the way life, personhood and afterlife were spoken about in this story. Is Rose still Rose without a functioning brain and body? Without the brain to create new pathways and links, can she evolve beyond who she was when she died? Who is she in this new setting?
Also if you become part of this place are you excluded from a traditional afterlife? Can you die again and move on to either Heaven or another place you believe in? What if your family is unable to join you? Is it worth staying in this place then? I liked asking these questions as we read because it put this new technology into a stark and real perspective.
Koren’s story was handled well. I can’t say I “liked” it, because of the way it went but I respected it and its part in the story. Her side of the tale explained how thrusting a child into a spotlight can do irreparable harm to them. Putting them on TV, or in magazines all dressed up can cause people to view them beyond their age. We saw how dangerous this concept can get. It was a good look at the dangers of child celebrity, even if it did disturb me into almost stopping reading at times.
What I was was okay with (didn’t love/hate):
I had some trouble with the way accents were written. They felt out of sorts, almost forced. There was only one character who was written with an accent while a number of them were supposed to be foreign. I found his speech difficult to follow at times and it threw me out of the story at times. I don’t know if his speech was needed to be written the way it was.
What I was wished was different:
My biggest issues in Aaru was with a handful of decisions that were made. Koren accepts the role as spokesperson without a minute of thought. Her parents never step in and demand a contract. There is no waiting period to think it over, she shakes hands and that is it.
Koren and her parents just trust a company they know next to nothing about. It was hard for me to believe they wouldn’t want details. Even beyond protecting their daughter’s well-being they don’t verify the money or the details of the deal. Her parents don’t even speak up during the exchange and decision process. There was also no later indication that they ever talked the contract over with a lawyer or verified everything that was as they were told it would be.
I also had an issue with the fact that there were cameras throughout the house. I can’t see anyone being okay with that idea right off the bat. Maybe it would have made more sense if there had been a discussion about it. Koren’s parents were intent on gaining the power and money that comes with being celebrities. I think I would have bought the idea more if there had been a scene where they were convinced to allow the cameras to be set up everywhere from the living room the the bedrooms.
Koren doesn’t even seem to know about the cameras. She states multiple times she doesn’t know how they got the footage. Shouldn’t she have at least known they were there? I don’t think it is even slightly legal to set up cameras without the owner’s knowledge and permission. I wanted more discussion about that fact.
I also would have liked more background on Rose and Koren’s parents. The story is about the girls but the parents felt flat. They were almost cliche’s. All her mother talks about it things “happening as they should” or “that is how things are in show business.” Her father falls into drinking, quickly. We have no foundation for them so watching them fall is hard to follow. I wanted to understand them better and why they allowed certain things to happen as they did.
This wasn’t something I hated but what I found hard to read. The way the Magic Man’s actions and desires were written were difficult to read. I understood why his storyline was there but I did almost stop reading because of his chapters. The first time he appeared I didn’t know where the story was going and I wasn’t sure I could continue. I did end up finishing and I understood his part but I would say that anyone reading the story should be made aware of the thoughts and actions that may be triggering to some people.
I gave Aaru 4 stars on Goodreads. It wasn’t the story I was expecting but it was well written and did tell a story with an important warning about the dangers of celebrity.
A/N: Todays prompt was to write about something that was found. The twist was to make it the second part of the three part series. So part one of this is from Day 4- Indestructible.
Right now she sat at the dining room table, piles upon piles of pictures before her. She was attempting to find the right ones to put out for her daughter’s high school graduation party. There was just so many different ones and she never had organized them. There was a pile with half Halloween and half Christmas. The vacation pictures had school pictures mixed into them. For many it would seem like a daunting and maybe even aggravating task. For her though it was a great way to examine the past.
The pile in her hand was from her second wedding. She let a smile take over her face. She laughed at some of the pictures. She stopped at a picture on the altar. There she stood in her wedding dress beside her new husband. Her three year old beautiful flower girl daughter stood at her feet, smiling shyly, half turned into her mothers legs. Her husband held their couple month old son, who was grinning an adorable baby grin. Here stood what she thought she could never truly have, happiness.
Smiles and true laughter were not something she thought she was ever going to be able to have again after that terrible night. For her she thought life was always going to involve her faking smiles, always trying too hard to not let them slip into a frown. She thought her laughter would always sound hallow and sad. Since that night eighteen years ago she hadn’t thought that true happiness ever could be hers again. When he had collapsed in that bathroom never to open his eyes or speak to her again she had thought that was it for her. The picture perfect family life with the loving husband and grinning children was torn away from her.
She had made the decision to live for her daughter. She knew she had to keep moving forward for the little girl. She had been determined to hold on tight to that child to make sure that she never got hurt again by this world. Eighteen years later and that little girl was graduating high school and heading off to college. She was beautiful, well behaved and smart (13 out of 300+ in her school).
On that night she had thought that it was going to be just the two of them against the world. Never did she think she would fall in love again and have that family she had once dreamed about half of her life.
That mother and daughter team was stronger then she could ever have hoped but it wasn’t just the two of them anymore. Now it was a family of five against the world. She had a husband who had walked into her life and had accepted what he had found with open arms. He had held out a hand for the two of them to take, and they had been holding on ever since. She had two sons as well. Two more children that she loved with all her heart, a heart she didn’t think could heal from that punch eighteen years ago.
She took a deep breath and wiped a tear from her eye. Just when she had believed that the universe had discarded her she was guided down a new path to a life. She had found a new way to define happiness and family.
As she watched her children come home from one of the last days of school for the year she tried to picture the family she had originally planned to have. She could see them still, but they were a vague outline, a ghost of a memory.
She would never forget him and the life they had planned before; a two child family in a tudor style home. She would never forget his tall lanky form and ridiculously huge coke bottle glasses. He would always have a place in her heart and her memories but she had found a way to move on. She gave each of her children a hug hello, though the middle son tried to wiggle out of her grasp.
Yes, that night a comet had cracked up the Earth and tragedy had cracked open her heart. But just like that crack in the ground she was healing, it was a slow process that would last her whole life but with these four people beside her she knew she would be okay no matter what the world threw at her. Because together they were an indestructible team.
I slipped my grease stained shirt over my head, buttoned every one but the top button and gathered together my apron. I wrapped the dangling strings around the bulky apron to keep them from trailing on the ground and getting dirtier then they already were.
I had one foot out of the door and a hand on the door knob when I glanced down. Damn, I forgot to cover up my tattoo. I shouldered the door open and sprinted the length of the living room and into the bathroom. With fingers that knew what they were doing I put the white bandage on my leg and taped it down.
I re-hooked my keys on my finger and put my apron back under my arm. I was out of the front door a minute later and twenty seconds after that I was behind the wheel of my car. I had gotten to be an expert at covering up my tattoo. It was a problem for where I worked. Why it was a problem? I had no idea. It was a picture of an open book, with the words Believe written across the pages by a feather quill. How unoffensive could you get?
Tattoos didn’t create the proper image for the restaurant where I worked. Everyone had to look uniform and match. No individuality or personality allowed inside those walls. I hated having to cover it up the five days I worked a week. I got it for a reason. It was my emblem, my way of showing the world who I was and what I did with my life. I wrote with full belief in myself, my words and what I could do with them. If that was offensive to someone, well screw them. I didn’t and would not try to care.
The drive was quick, only fifteen minutes today. No traffic to delay me, which was good for my mood. What wasn’t was the actual shift. The work day did not fly past like the drive. It was long and full of attitude and confused messed up orders. I got my exercise that day running back and forth recooking half of what was served. I got into a fight with one of the cooks when I wouldn’t admit that his job was more difficult then mine. (He didn’t have to talk to these people! I did.)
Finally the end of the day was near. I had one hour left. Sixty minutes was all I had to endure before freedom was mine. I had two days off and I was planning on using them to forget that this place even existed.
I got a new guest at the counter. I handed him a set of silverware but left the menu in the holder. He was a regular (not a particular favored regular) who knew the menu better then half of the waitresses here. He rattled off his meal of choice and I turned to head around the corner to put in his order. He caught sight of my bandaged leg and asked question I had heard at least a dozen times that day.
“What did you do to your leg?” He asked.
I stopped and glanced down at my leg to ensure we were thinking about the same thing. “Nothing. It is actually covering up my tattoo. Against regulations to have it,” I said. Now that should have been it, just like it had been for the rest of the day. But this guy wasn’t one for keeping his mouth shut.
“You have a tattoo? Why would you destroy yourself like that?” He asked, completely shocked and disgusted.
“It was designed by my brother. It’s an open book with a feather quill writing the world Believe,” was how I responded. It was the safest thing for me to say right now. I walked around the corner to the computer, knowing that if I stayed near him any longer some unpleasant words would leave my mouth.
Unfortunately for me staying away from him was not a possible task. The restaurant was the size of a shoe box, it only sat 30 people. So I ended up back in font of him only minutes later.
I was at the front computer checking out a guest, doing everything in my power to ignore him. He kept trying to catch my eye but I refused to even glance at him. As soon as the woman had her back to me, Mister-I-know-everything opened his mouth again.
“So what gang are you in then?” he asked, no laughter. He wasn’t joking, he was being serious.
I had to drop my pen because my fingers started to shake. “What!? I’m not!” I snapped at him. I was usually very much in control of my emotions. I didn’t snap or get angry easily. People joked it was like pulling teeth to get me mad. Unless you attacked someone I cared about. Today though I was already at the end of my rope and he wasn’t cutting the last threads.
‘Well, that is automatically what I think. If you get a tattoo you are in a gang. Simple.”he shrugged at me. His look said “Well, you’re the one who got it so don’t blame me.”
“Well, you are a judgmental piece of shit! You know that!? You wear glasses and a high priced suit, guess you are a smug bastard who thinks because he has money he is better then everyone else. Like being judged? No!? Well, neither do I! Did you bother to ask if it had any meaning? Or why I got it in the first place!? It is a reminder to me to believe in myself always. Even when arrogant piece sod shit like you attack me! SO FUCK YOU!!” Such an awesome speech, I just wished I could actually deliver it. I wished I could have watched his face fall and watch him fumble for his words.
But I needed my job so I bit my tongue until I tasted blood and turned on my heel for the back area. As I scooted past coworkers I let the scene continue to play in my head. A small smile creased my lips. In real life I could never say a word and could never put him in his place. But in my own little world I could tell that bastard off and he could get what he deserved.