(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.
(I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)
I have stated in previous reviews that reimagining and re-tellings of fairy tales are some of my favorite kinds of stories. I loved to see how people rethink classic stories or delve deeper into the characters. David Meredith’s story gives us a deeper look into the character of Snow White.
Snow White is probably my least favorite princess. Her story has always been pretty basic and boring to me. I have never felt a true connection to her. This tale gave me a new look at Snow White and has given me a new appreciation for her as a character. Now when I think of her I will see a stronger character than I have before.
It has been a year since Prince Charming passed away. Snow White is consumed by her grief. She wants nothing to do with anyone or anything around her including her only daughter, Raven. Raven is getting married but Snow White cannot find a way to care or get wrapped up in the wedding. All she can think about is missing her husband.
In an effort to find real solitude Snow White goes on a walk and ends up in the quarters of her deceased stepmother. In the abandoned room she finds her stepmother’s mirror. She starts talking to the mirror and begins a journey into her past to find out who she truly is.
Snow White is taken through her past and is able to get out many of the emotions she has been holding inside of her for so much of her life. After each flashback, the mirror tries to make Snow see an important part of who she is. At first, Snow is combative, she refuses to see anything good before her. She only sees loss, abuse, and grief.
The mirror refuses to let her be consumed by those feelings. What the mirror does is show Snow White what is inside of her. It can’t show her anything that she does not hold inside of herself in some manner. At first, that is only her grief and anger. But slowly that begins to change.
Snow White learns just how strong of a woman she is. Her life has not been easy. She was severely abused by her stepmother. She was poisoned. She was doubted and abused by those she was supposed to rule. She had trouble conceiving a child and doubted her worth to Charming. Through each trial, she fought back and found a way to live on. The mirror shows Snow White that her grief over losing Charming is only one of her many battles. She can win this one, as well ,if only she does not give up.
Characters are my favorite parts of stories. The plot can be subpar, the setting hard to follow but if I connect to a character I am most likely going to enjoy the story in some manner. I wasn’t sure exactly what this story was going to be about when I read the summary. I thought we may get the origins of the mirror and Snow White having to fight a battle to save herself.
In part I was right. Snow White fought an internal struggle to find the woman she had lost in her sorrow. I appreciated this view into Snow White as a character. The flashbacks into her life were interesting. They stayed very close to the original story. This was not a long story, it basically all takes place in the room with the mirror, but it takes us throughout all of Snow White’s history. We get to see what kind of woman she actually is.
The story is also one about dealing with grief and losing someone close to you. For me, this hit a bit closer to home than it may for other readers. The ending, in particular, made me a bit teary-eyed. I think the way living on after losing someone was talked about made me appreciate the story a bit more than I would have otherwise.
If you enjoy fairytales and glimpses into characters we think we know well you will enjoy this story. It is a quick read but a powerful one. There are some dark moments that were a bit hard to read but combined with the other elements of the story I really enjoyed the story.
Purchase the book here on Amazon.
(This story as read as part of the Once Upon a Time X Challenge over at Stainless Steel Droppings).