ARIA by Geoff Nelder
ARIA, is a science fiction trilogy by British author Geoff Nelder. Left Luggage is the first volume of the trilogy. After a first draft in 2005, it was published in the UK and US by LL-Publications in 2012. Left Luggage is the first novel featuring ARIA – Alien Retrograde Infectious Amnesia, a fictional disease that can be compared to Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.
The novel is set in the near future and revolves around an alien attempt to infect Earth with ARIA. Their motives are not known in Left Luggage. The effect of ARIA is apocalyptic in that the infected lose their memory backwards at the rate of a year’s worth per week. No one is immune, however, a few groups isolate themselves.
Left Luggage won The Preditors & Editors Readers Poll for best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel of 2012.
In 2015, a mysterious case found at the orbiting International Space Station is sent to NASA's labs at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Bungled security reveals that it contains an unknown virus inducing infectious retrograde amnesia. Chaotic breakdown of society develops exponentially. Ryder, with inside information from his media-career specializing in space-issues, realizes what's happening and is as exuberant as the astronauts in the awareness that this is Earth’s first alien contact, but he fails to convince the authorities of the seriousness of the problem. He is unaware that Jena, the feisty US astronaut is to meet him and will rip apart his existing love life.
The effects of infectious amnesia are revealed in various scenarios: The first amnesia victim seeing his town fall apart, becomes a criminal to keep his family alive, and despairs as his young daughter loses her ability to read, write and talk. A zookeeper joyfully beds his wife, who forgets they were recently divorced, but his subsequent amnesia makes him forget the medication for the gorillas in his care.
The ISS crew find a second container and return to Earth meeting up with Ryder’s isolated group to plan survival. The two groups gel except when they fight over procedures and relationships.
The aliens do not communicate directly with Earth, only by leaving the cases on the ISS. An object, assumed to be the alien ship, is observed in Saturn's rings. Ryder and the ISS crew speculate that the aliens may have misguided good intentions. Some assume the aliens will be back to occupy the future clean and depopulated planet.
In another plot thread Manuel, Ryder’s friend, is infected. Although he is losing his memory he keeps notes and being in touch with Ryder via his handheld device is able to cope. He hides in a Banff log cabin with a diabetic young woman, running out of insulin.
The astronaut doctor, Antonio, opens the second case isolated in a cave. Nothing happens until a signal from the alien ship activates the case contents. Antonio reappears with extraordinary mental abilities but soon goes berserk. He kills some of Ryder’s group, but after a battle, he’s shot.
The second case contents halts the amnesia's progress to infected people. Ryder’s group risk exposing some local amnesiacs to it, but after the terrible experience with Antonio daren’t expose themselves. Ryder’s group and the astronauts escape in a plane to an uninfected group in the South Seas. The journey is hazardous, but volume one ends with the plane over the Pacific with the survivors, while buoyed with self-deprecating humour, full of uncertainty.
Much of the setting for the isolated group in North Wales takes place in a real place – the Anafon Valley, a cul-de-sac, dating back to pre-Roman days, rarely visited by tourists. Medieval Welsh princes were educated nearby and the valley has several ancient ruins.
Other settings include the town of Rosamond (with a slight spelling change to Rosamund), near Edwards Air Force Base, CA.; Moraine Lake in the Rocky Mountains; a zoo in Chester.
The story continues in Volume two: Returning Left Luggage and Volume three: Abandoned Luggage.
Reviews of Left Luggage
The British Fantasy Society Review:
"‘Aria: Left Luggage’ is a highly enjoyable book. A highly accessible sci-fi book. Something that you can read in bed before sleep without your head hurting and eyes crossing as you try to grasp some out there concept." READ MORE
"ARIA: Left Luggage (Volume One) is a well-written novel with the pace and suspense of a video game (BioShock immediately comes to mind)." READ MORE
"The big question is whether I would want to read the second volume. Although I would probably not diligently seek it out, there is enough that is intriguing for me to want to read it if a copy came my way." READ MORE
Twisted SciFi Review:
"This is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking sci-fi thriller by winner of best SF 2012, Geoff Nelder, and if ARIA is anything to go by, the award is well deserved." READ MORE
The Horror Zine Review:
"The author handles the many characters with ease and makes every one of them distinct and real." READ MORE
Books & Tales Review:
"The book is gripping from the start and the pages seem to turn themselves as you eagerly read on to discover what happens next." READ MORE
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Guest Post by Geoff Nelder
Geoff Nelder Offers A Glimpse at the Director’s Cut of ARIA: Left Luggage at SF SIGNAL
About Geoff NelderGeoff Nelder is a British freelance editor and author. He has written both fiction and non-fiction, and his research in the field of air pollution and climate won him a fellowship with the Royal Meteorological Society. READ MORE AT WIKIPEDIA