I heard about this book on NPR, and that's how I became interested in reading it. However, I was not overly impressed with how Brockmeier handled the premise he was working on. A case of a good idea with only mediocre follow through. What irritated me about the book is that besides the main character, the other key characters were barely developed, leaving the reader mostly unsatisfied. The most tiresome supporting characters seemed to get the most exposure, while the most interesting ones take a back seat.
A dazzler of a book! Beautifully written. It's about people in a city that is filled with those who have departed the Earth but are still remembered by the living. "They will reside in the afterlife until they are completely forgotten."
Absolutely awesome! My five star ratings are few and far between, but The Brief History of the Dead gets five stars. This was one of those books that, once I get started on, make me want to scream at everyone around me to shut up so I can read!
Whew - dark, fascinating. Hard to put down because I was trying to put all the pieces together. Brockmeier's tactic of going between two different worlds was very satisfying. He reveals just enough on each page for you to slowly, very slowly (in a good way) start to grasp the situation at hand. Very inventive idea.
This was a very unique book. The way it's written is very different from every book I've ever read. It kept me intrigued, even as it changed story lines every other chapter. It tells about the city of the dead, where the dead wait until they pass on from memory to the stranded woman at the south pole.
All in all, the book was excellent until the final chapters, where it feels like the author just went totally berserk and ends the book leaving me more confused than the book made me feel as a whole. The "conclusion" was never concluded for me because of this, but still worth the read.
I can honestly say I'll never look at coca-cola the same again.
When you die, are you really dead? Can you keep on living through memory? Kevin Brockmeier's January release is built solely on these questions and many more, delivering a thought-provoking, deep and powerful novel unlike any other.
The Brief History of the Dead revolves around Laura Byrd, a wildlife specialist employed by the Coca-Cola Corporation that is sent out to Antarctica to find uses for the slowly melting ice for the popular soft drink. However, a slight snag in the plan occurs - the world is wiped out by a lethal virus while she's freezing her buns off (now that is some bad luck for ya), and her accompanying colleagues Joyce and Puckett, in a helpful sense, abandon her and their station to seek help across the icy depths. Hold up - it gets better.
Every other chapter deals with another world entirely - one housing those who have passed from the Earth. But it isn't the heaven-or-hell afterlife the majority of the population had envisioned - it is yet another city that expands on its own to house the bloating census. Confused? Be patient.
While these stories seem to have little to do with each other, Brockmeier gingerly intertwines them about half way through the book, making two worlds one...in a sense. Turns out this parallel city the dead folks are shacking up in is powered by the memories of those on Earth. And, since a lethal virus rarely shows mercy to its victims, Laura winds up being the last remaining person on Earth. Only her memories and the people retained in them remain in the city. But what if Laura dies? What will happen to the city and its occupants then?
You'll have to read it to find out. But even still, Brockmeier's mind-bending writing skill is so interesting and twisted, one will have a hard time putting this 252-page novel down. And his intriguing insight into the afterlife and this supposed memory-driven plane may give even the most religious of people something to contemplate.
But be forewarned: You may never look at another Coca-Cola can the same way again.
I found this book to be very interesting! I loved watching the stories unfold, and seeing how they connected to each other. I think maybe I was a little slow at realizing the climax of the book. I don't want to say too much about it because as soon as the plot begins stuff is given away. I think this is a story that the main idea will stick with me a long time - the idea that as long as someone remembers you, there are different stages of death.
Reading this, I was very much reminded of Neil Gaiman's works. He has a theme that crops up in several of his stories about cities sleeping and dreaming, and the people living in the cities just being parts of those dreams. This isn't the plot of "Brief History," but it does have that similar feeling.
The story says it is a novel, but it also could be classified as near-future science fiction.
Over all it was a very good, fast read that I am sure will stay with me for a long time.
I enjoyed this bittersweet book about memory, family, friends, life and death and how just knowing people - even from a distance - makes a difference. I also liked the alternating chapters between the events in the City and Laura Byrd's struggles in Antarctica.
I don't normally read fiction but the subject matter of this novel caught my attention (end-of-the-world scenerio, the afterlife) so I gave it a try. I was not disappointed at all, I read thru it fairly quickly cause I couldn't get it out of my mind. I loved it!!
This book received high praise, so perhaps my expectations were too high ... but it was not as good as I expected it to be. The book is beautifully written and has interesting ideas, but doesn't have characters or a plot engrossing enough to make it truly enjoyable. It's an interesting theory of the afterlife, but not a terribly interesting piece of fiction. I found myself depressed for most of the book and found myself skimming over the many detailed yet unnecessary descriptions of the characters past and present experiences. I think point of the book is that life should be cherished not in terms of what we accomplish, but in terms of what we experience. A good thought, but this was a REALLY roundabout way of coming to that conclusion.
The Brief History of the Dead left me feeling dazed and wondering, like looking at the sun and then having to blink to reorient yourself. The two narratives interwoven in this book, the world of the dead and one of the last living women on earth are restrained but still wonderful. It's an excellent ponderance about connections, death and the afterlife.
This reminded me rather a lot of Graham Joyce's The Silent Land, which I just read recently. It contains a lot of the same themes and motifs; solitude, a transitory(?) afterlife, etc, using some of the same symbolism (cold, snow, finite and dreamlike realities).
This book is much more explicitly apocalyptic: a virulent pandemic sweeps the earth; one woman in solitude in the Antarctic struggles to survive and contact others. Meanwhile, all the people she ever knew or remembers exist in an oddly mundane afterlife.
I enjoyed the writing style and the concept, but I wished that more had been done with it. It's more about mood than plot, and the ending felt a little flat.
Very interesting. Such a different book. I liked it because it was so different from any story I had ever read - however, I don't recommend it - well, actually I did recommend it to a guy I know who's an executive with Coke!
I'm going to really go out on a limb here and say this book is in my top ten books of the decade. This is a book that stays with you, sometimes wakes you up in a cold sweat, haunts your private thoughts.
"Brief History" has so many story strands, but it's the beauty of being bundled together, touching through thought instead of words. It's your family history.
I can guarantee this book will move you by the end, if not sooner. Brockmeier has some marvelous thoughts and ideas and theories. I think I saw my life flash before me.
Do yourself a favor and read this book. Get it any way you can, your local public library should probably have it in its stacks.
Very interesting and hard to describe. Almost kind of a Riverworld idea but different. I do wish there had been more to the story. It seems that there was a lot of potential for more there. Definitely worth the read and I would suggest it to anyone.
It was an unwelcome coincidence that I started reading this book just before the Ebola outbreak because this book's premise is a virus that wipes out everyone on earth. Once a person passes they live in another world as long as someone alive still remembers them. A dual story line is about a group of researchers in Antarctica. I will not tell any more but I would definately recommend this book. The end was a little bizarre but it eventually made sense.
What happens when we die? Everyone has a theory and this is Brockmeier's. As long as someone on earth remembers a deceased person, they live in another world, a city without any discernible end. Where they go when the last person who knew them dies...that's apparently another story.
That's one layer of the story.
The other layer takes place in the world of the living. Sometime in the future, virologists create a virus that kills everyone.
This is an end-of-the-world story times two, written with wit and plenty of quirks.
I enjoyed piecing together the connections between the last person on earth and those who she remembers.
Kimbo B. reviewed The Brief History of the Dead on
Started off great with an interesting look at the world of the dead, and the concept that you only move through the afterlife (or middle life) once all the people that remember you on earth are dead. Really enjoyed it until the last couple of chapters, where is kind of just fizzled into nothing. Fun, quick and easy read though.
Yo check it, this book, is like the greatest book I ever read, it's about this woman right, the last woman on earth, NOT Tom Cruise in the Last Samurai, not Fresh Prince/ID4 last man on earth, not book of Eli, but the last woman on Earth, but the hitch, she don't know she is the last woman so she is trying to find he fellow man, but there ain't nobody, oh yeah and she is stuck in Antarctica of all places. But get this every other Chapter is not about her it's about the people in the afterlife! All the people in her mind who live in a city in limbo happily or not-so happily ever after or at least until she kicks the can. This is a trippy spiritual book about survival and life after death. You meet all kinds of Characters and they each have touching stories.
From Publishers Weekly
A deadly virus has spread rapidly across Earth, effectively cutting off wildlife specialist Laura Byrd at her crippled Antarctica research station from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the planet's dead populate "the city," located on a surreal Earth-like alternate plane, but their afterlives depend on the memories of the living, such as Laura, back on home turf. Forced to cross the frozen tundra, Laura free-associates to keep herself alert; her random memories work to sustain a plethora of people in the city, including her best friend from childhood, a blind man she'd met in the street, her former journalism professor and her parents. Brockmeier (The Truth About Celia) follows all of them with sympathy, from their initial, bewildered arrival in the city to their attempts to construct new lives. He meditates throughout on memory's power and resilience, and gives vivid shape to the city, a place where a giraffe's spots might detach and hover about a street conversation among denizens. He simultaneously keeps the stakes of Laura's struggle high: as she fights for survival, her parents find a second chance for lovebut only if Laura can keep them afloat.