Stars: 3 out of 5
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I really liked the first 60% of it when Aloe is in Blue Haven and strange things are happening. On the other, I didn’t like the explanation that comes in the later part of the book.
The first part in Blue Haven is very well written and slowly revs up the creep factor as the book progresses. We are never truly sure if strange things are happening, or if Aloe is having a mental breakdown. And that uncertainty adds to the general unease that slowly creeps on the reader. Yes, Aloe is clearly mentally unstable, but she is also right – something is wrong with Blue Haven. Because we all know that if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t real.
The big reveal that comes once Aloe, or should I say Eloise, is pulled out of Blue Haven is expected and welcome, at first. Until you start thinking about it. That’s where this whole experiment starts to unravel.
So we are using a neural net and augmented reality to make mentally ill patients happy. Interesting idea, but I don’t understand this one size fits all approach. Are you telling me that you are treating a clinically depressed person the same way as you treat a man with severe PTSD and physical disability, and the same way as a couple in the late stages of dementia? I’m not psychologist, but even to me the science of this doesn’t add up.
Also, when you are creating a utopia, you have to make it believable. No phones, TV or internet I can agree on, but what about other types of entertainment? What about concerts, movies, books, live performances? Are you telling me that the only things these people can do for fun is lounge on the beach and eat at fancy restaurants? Oh, and talk to each other? What about those who would rather accept the emotional support of a pet animal, like a cat or a dog, than try to socialize with other human beings? I’m not sure about you, but I would be climbing up the proverbial wall after a week of this. This one size fits all approach doesn’t work, because happiness doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Some people would be perfectly content to spend their life laying on the beach. Others will need a lot more intellectual simulation to be truly happy.
Also, the big reveal that this doesn’t work and only makes people worse isn’t really that shocking, because you can see early on that they had no protocol for how to pull people back out and integrate them back into society. How long do they stay in Blue Haven before they care considered cured? How do you reintegrate their real memories afterwards? Imagine the shock when you discover that instead of being a retired opera singer, you discover that you are an Applebee’s manager and your wife and daughters are still dead. Or that you get the memories back from your time in Iraq and the horrors that lead to your injury.
No matter how I look at it, I don’t think there is a good solution to integrate these people back into society and keep them happy and cured. The only solution is to keep them in Blue Haven forever. And if that’s the case, this is not a treatment at all, even without the harmful effects of the neural net on the brain… I honestly don’t know who they received the funding to even start this experiment to begin with. Any serious backers would have asked the same questions I asked above, and wouldn’t have liked the answers.
So all in all, this was an exciting story for at least half of it length, but the explanation behind the scenes were rather lacking. Hence only 3 stars.
PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.