The premise of ARIA: Left Luggage by Geoff Nelder is fascinating. An alien artifact is found in orbit, opened on Earth, and releases an epidemic that erases memories – starting from yesterday and eating rapidly back through your life.
- What would I do if I woke up on an airplane with a horrific hangover and no memory of how I got there or where I’m going? What if self-control eroded so everyone was increasingly violent?
- Suppose I knew I was infected and realized what was coming? Where would I go? What notes would I leave myself to compensate for my life slipping away?
- If I was lucky enough to escape to a doomsday prepper’s hideaway without being infected, would I kill anyone who approached? How would I try to help humanity?
- And as the world fell apart, would I wonder who did this? Why? Where are they? And what’s next?
I wrote those questions in first person because this story drew me in – I could identify with the characters – those escaping and those losing their memories, which is a version of losing their minds. Nelder shares characters’ discussions and planning as well as the action with readers.
While the first half of the book shows various groups trying to deal with the disaster, in the second half there are more complications, discoveries, and things go terribly awry for the main characters. Yet there is (perhaps?) a glimmer of hope.
This is the first book in a trilogy
Be prepared for the final pages to set up the next book rather than bring the story to a conclusion. Solving the “big” mysteries of the story has to wait. For those of you who hate to start a series without knowing it will conclude: the second and third books are available now, and (as the description says, so I’m not a spoiler) “we finally meet the aliens.”
What others are saying
Reviewers agree that the book is engaging and makes them wonder how they would react in such a situation. You won’t find many negative comments on Amazon, and even a rare unfavorable review said “looks like it would make a hell of a movie.” The author refers to the International Space Station and Space Shuttle, but in the story these have capabilities beyond the real-life craft – that’s a small complaint about a science fiction story in my mind.
Check out my own science fiction here.