David Meredith contacted me for a review during the time I was taking a hiatus from reviews to work on my own next novel, so there has been a little delay in getting into his book. I really needed to wait to read it when I could give it my full atttention.
David Meredith's novel Aaru, sets the stage by putting us in the mind of a child dying of leukemia. It is brutal, her suffering, and Meredith does a very good job of displaying all the many emotions, from anger and grief to regret and finally acceptance. His young protagonists, and there are two, Rose, the dying girl and her younger sister, Koran, are distinct and different. They are nicely portrayed.
As I got into this novel I found that it was not what I expected. I thought it was young adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy when I first started reading, but it really settles itself nicely in the New Adult/College category. It is complex and has very heavy questions and situations. It is a book for thinking, and it certainly made me think. The story line is delves into the concepts of immortality, exploitation, obsessive behavior, and the fallacy of good intentions. What if our consciousness could be retained after our bodies failed? What would it mean to have neverending life in a utopic and multidimensional space? What are the consequences of children being dressed up and displayed to adult audiences for mass consumption. What are the responsibilities of parents to their children? Who's job is it to protect them? Is it acceptable for an adult to attack, verbally and with malicious intent, a child because they represent something they oppose? I found Meredith's spot on portrayal of the power of social media in our lives intensely disturbing.
The girls' progress after Rose's death and ascent to Aaru in very different fashions. Rose learns the intracacies of Aaru and Koran becomes a spokesmodel for the company Elysian Industries, the developer of Aaru. She is barely a child herself but is exploited in the most abhorant ways. She is dressed in seductive clothing, she is in "showbiz" now and everybody, including her self serving parents, encourage her to go along with it because that's the way it is done in "showbiz." I don't know if Meredith intended to make a commentary of the exploitation of children in marketing, but it rang a loud and strong chord with me. I have a daughter who wants to act in all of the Disney shows, Jessie, Bunk'd, the Descendants, and I'm sure the camera would love her and I know she can put on a good show, but it's an industry that chews people up and the idea of putting her anywhere near it is terrifying.
Koran, and by extension, Rose, ends up with a stalker, a terrifyingly plausible creation. Meredith writes this book in the thrid person but does a good job of putting you inside the mind of his characters. Magic Man made my skin crawl and I wanted nothing more than to get out of the inside of his head. Rose grows and develops inside Aaru, developing frindships with others there. Koran transforms in giant leaps and bounds and ultimately is more adult that either of her parents. Bill and Gypsy Johnson are self-serving to the end and I was grateful that I didn't have to spend any time inside of their heads, because I wanted to slap them every time they justified what was being asked of their young daughter because it met their needs.
There is a lot of information in Meredith's Aaru and his explanations leave you believing that all of this could be possible. He provides a lot of information within the framework of conversations or interviews, and I found myself more than once straying from his print to actually imagine what he was explaining. It's a great jumping off point for a number of concepts. What are the consequences of man playing God? What would be possible if death were no longer part of the equation? How would the created environment succeed and where would it fail. Meredith has thought through all of these questions and much more.