Monday, March 19, 2007

Review: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

Absolutely fascinating concept for a book. In alternating chapters, Kevin Brockmeier tells the story of those who have died and are living in an after-life city, and the story of a woman alive on the earth, stranded in Antarctica in what was supposed to be a corporate exploration. I greedily devoured each chapter of this book. It was a quick and absorbing read. At the same time, I found myself deeply disturbed along with lost in philosophical thought about exactly what I think happens to us after we die.

The rest of this review will have some pretty major spoilers -- it's just too hard to discuss the book without them -- so stop now if you don't want to know!

So here's this huge city of people who have died, and are in some type of "holding" city. They remain there as long as someone on earth still remembers them, so some people are hanging around in this city for many decades. They still eat at diners, do jobs, or remain homeless, still have their bodies, still have trouble sleeping, still have love lives, and so on. I don't know about you, but this depresses me. I believe in an afterlife, and I sincerely hope this is not it. I'm not down on life, but I sure hope "heaven" or even a "holding place" for heaven doesn't contain the same endless mundane details that are required to make a life work. Frankly, I'm looking forward to a new body!! :)

And then there's the alternating chapters. Here's Laura, the last person left on earth. I mean, at first she doesn't really know that, but at some point she has to realize that no one else is left but her. It's fascinating to me that she still had such a will to live....that she'd choose the slow death rather than just throwing herself down a crevasse. Who knows if this is how a person would really feel, but I certainly wouldn't want to be the last one left standing, if this is any indication of how it would feel.

And then - the plague that killed them all. Could anything be more chilling? Someone finally found a germ warfare that would spread like wildfire. They put it in Coke and there goes the world!! It's one of those "I hope Al Qaeda isn't reading this" moments. One of those moments where you realize that something like this is probably only a plan away at any given moment.

The world is a scary, lonely and horrible place in this book. What's disturbing is that the after-world isn't too much better. What an amazing, innovative idea for a book. But.....pass the anti-depressant, please.


Literary Feline said...

I stopped in time so as not to read any spoilers. This one sounds good, Lisa! I will definitely be adding it to my wishlist. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

kookiejar said...

I loved, loved this book. It has everything I look for in a great story ... post-apocalyptic Earth, Antarctica, life after death. I was enthralled from page one. I thought you did a very good job of summing up a very complex plot.

Stephanie said...

Great. Now there's is another book to add to my TBR!

Bookfool said...

I skimmed to avoid spoilers, too. I almost bought a signed copy of this for kiddo, last year, but didn't get back to the bookstore in time. Darn. I'd just borrow his! Now, I have to wait.