Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

SUCH a cool idea. This book is set in the not-too-distant future.

Half of the book (every other chapter) is about "the City," where people who have died congregate. The city is big enough to accommodate everyone who needs to be there. But people are only there for a limited amount of time.... the citizens of the city posit that they are there as long as someone alive still remembers them, though of course they have no way of knowing for sure what the "rules" are of this apparent in-between place. They live out a sort of second life in the city, where they neither age nor procreate, but otherwise seem to live just as on earth, with loves, hatreds, anger, frustration, etc. However, there appears to suddenly be a rapid influx and then a complete falling away of the population of the city, and the remaining residents are trying to figure out what is happening.

The other half of the book is about Laura Byrd, a "wildlife specialist" who has been sent to Antarctica on an exploration expedition to determine how Coca Cola (her employer) will impact the environment if it takes from the melting ice in Antarctica to use in a new formula it is considering. She is there with 2 others, when they lose communication with their employer and the other 2 set off to find supplies and information. Thus, Laura is left alone and as time passes, her supplies run low, she continues to have no communication, and she has no idea when her 2 cohorts will return, if ever.

And.... I don't want to say more because how this all plays out is very interesting! Brockmeier has a lyrical writing style, with the ability to notice (have his readers notice) the interesting things happening around the characters, without losing sight of the characters and their development. The pace is not ... hasty. Rather, it is steady and almost calm. Yet, as the story progresses, the events become more urgent, and you continue turning the pages (well into bedtime) because you must know, as all the characters desire, what in the world(s) is happening!

It's a though-provoking piece, published nearly a decade ago, that brings up concerns of what is happening to the world around us and/or what COULD happen to the world around us if we're not more careful, without being preachy.  I would definitely recommend this to a patient reader looking for something a little strange, a little sci-fi, a little thoughtful.

FOUR of five stars

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