Imagine a world in which death becomes a thing of the past. Does that excite you, or scare you?
***I was very kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***
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.
Death is a powerful and sensitive subject, and it is one that ought to be treated with dignity and respect.
When David approached me about his book, I was excited to read something that challenged our current beliefs about death. With our ever-advancing technology, is a system like Aaru possible in the future?
Quite so, I think, but I am not sure it could ever come to fruition as a result of the moral and religious arguments. I say this as a person, having grown up as part of a society still fighting for reform of anti-abortion laws. Yes, it is still illegal to terminate a pregnancy here. That isn’t for discussion here, albeit topical discussion locally at the moment.
Naturally, we are all going to have our own opinions about these subjects and I am glad the book touched on them all. Told mostly from the perspective of Rose and Koren, the narrative explores how the lives of the two teenage girls are affected. Rose, having suffered for years with Leukaemia, is offered a second chance at life through Aaru once her body succumbs to the disease. As an early resident, she becomes a part of both highlighting and ironing out the flaws in the system whilst her sister Koren becomes an overnight celebrity, marketing it to the world.
Not only does the book bring about the discussion of the social attitudes towards such a “solution” to death, it also highlights a number of practical problems that could arise, including security and data manipulation. Who should decide who gets to “live” after death? Think of the number of people that live seemingly good lives, yet after they are gone, we begin to hear more sinister things about their past. Would these people be let into Aaru? The concept of the system is that initially, it would be a chargeable service, becoming free and widely available later on. In my opinion, are not the people that have the wealth to afford such a service usually in a position or power and influence? Nobody is truly virtuous so some complaint would be made to their admission into eternal life.
For altogether different reasons, the book does take a sinister turn, and the element of danger greatly added to the plot. I love the concept of the book, even though I don’t feel it is a feasible option in reality.
I struggled to relate to Koren a bit, I will admit here. A thirteen-year-old girl at the time of Rose’s death, she really struggled to come to terms with the loss of her sister. She is then thrown mercilessly into the limelight by advertising this new service available, experiencing a maelstrom of emotions. Perhaps being the rebellious teenager she is, she intentionally pushes people away (including the reader, a tad). I was glad to see Koren’s parents step up to the mark as well. I felt they were a little absent from the beginning, before and just after Rose’s death, which doesn’t have a ring of realism to me. Every family is different though, I suppose.
The book is well written and I love how bold a subject it covers. Be aware though, it has mature themes so is probably not for the faint-hearted! Otherwise, it is a definite recommend to read.