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The Brief History of the Dead

af Kevin Brockmeier

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingSamtaler / Omtaler
2,4311684,776 (3.64)1 / 212
All residents of the City have recently died, and they will remain in the City only as long as someone still living on Earth remembers them. On Earth, however, the population has been devastated by terrible pandemic. Laura Byrd, isolated at an Antarctic research station, is running low on supplies and has only her memories to comfort her. The people of the City realize Laura is the common thread binding them together. But Laura, who may be the only person to have survived the pandemic, is running out of time--and her memories are fading.… (mere)
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Engelsk (166)  Hollandsk (1)  Catalansk (1)  Alle sprog (168)
Viser 1-5 af 168 (næste | vis alle)
A different, non-religious telling of purgatory. In Brockmeier's death sequence, when people died they went to a big city to live (in another dimension?). They lived until there was nobody else to remember them, then they passed into the next dimension, which was where Brockmeier's book ended. This was one of the oddest books I've read, neither odd good or odd bad! I had this both on Audible and Kindle. 272 pages ( )
  Tess_W | Sep 9, 2021 |
I seem to be having an AMAZING reading month. I can't remember the last time I read so many 4 star stories in a short time frame (we'll give 'Consider Phlebas' a pass, and roll it into the Culture books overall). Partly this is, I think, because I've taken the pressure off myself to stick to "recent" releases and just concentrated on hunting down fiction that I think I'll love.

Anyways... this was phenomenal. The kind of book that sets my brain alight, that delights in and plays with language; that contains enormous scope and far-reaching themes, yet very personal stories; that examines the universe through tiny, refractive lenses. The imagery and skillful writing were a joy. I think this will stay with me for quite awhile.

Fans of weird fiction, new weird, surrealism, and/or litfic with a speculative edge, should pick up this novel if they haven't already.

TLDR: Look, it was just fucking great. Fin. ( )
  Sunyidean | Sep 7, 2021 |
A beautifully written, beautifully conceived little fairy tale. I almost wish it could have gone on forever, especially as I feel that the ending is the weakest part of the book.

Half of the novel is based on a gorgeous, appealing little wheeze. The afterlife (at least, the immediate afterlife) is neither Heaven nor Hell, but an ordinary City of day jobs and coffeeshops, minor inconveniences and random encounters, in which the Dead live as comfortably as they choose, as long as someone in the living world remembers them. Once the last living person who remembers them dies (and makes the transition to the City), they vanish, "softly and suddenly away" as Lewis Carroll would have said (and, indeed, "never be met with again.") No one knows where they go.

So, the City is a waiting room. It's a Purgatory, of sorts, but a very gentle and self-directed one. It's a place of choices, and --perhaps -- second chances: you can choose to be exactly the same obnoxious, work- and status-driven jerk you were in life. Or, you can choose to live the life you wished you'd been able to live when you were alive -- say, open up an greasy spoon diner, where you greet all of your customers by name, and serve up wonderful all-day breakfasts. If you enjoyed your life, you can carry on doing exactly what you used to do -- perhaps with the benefit of new friends, new lovers, or a new, revitalized relationship with someone you'd become stale with. All up to you.

As you have probably guessed, I unreservedly loved the half of the book set in the City. I loved the (seemingly) random focus on a different residents of the City in each chapter, stories that hinted at their connections to the world of the Living, hinted at the familiar yet slightly dystopian future of its backstory, and made some nicely timed revelations about the drama unfolding for the Living and the Dead. I loved the fact that Brockmeier kept the mechanics vague, and even a little illogical: there is money (there are a couple of beggars, and a crazy street preacher has some coins thrown at him by a woman who just wants him to leave her alone), but no sense that it's needed to get food at the diner, or paper for Luca Sims' homemade news sheet. And where does the food that's cooked and eaten, and the coffee that drunk in great quantities, and the paper come from? Dunno, don't really care. The City, for me, is a metaphor, in the very best sense, about love and the persistence of memory. Things that, you could argue, are pretty illogical themselves ...

My recollection, from my first reading of the novel about 10 years ago, was that I wasn't as blown away by the other half of the book -- the steadily unfolding drama of Laura Byrd, who is struggling to survive in Antarctica just as a particularly virulent virus is ripping across the globe. As I recalled, I understood Laura's story was necessary -- trying for no spoilers here (although I think you can guess what's what), but the deaths of so many people in the wider world, and Laura's dogged survival, has a great impact on the City -- provides what is, otherwise, just a nice wheeze with drama, mystery, something at stake.

So here's what's really interesting for me, on this rereading: reading it NOW (November 2020 -- hello from the Apocalypse, and Lockdown Hell, everyone ... :-), the chapters with Laura were, for the most part, brilliant. I don't know where Mr. Brockmeier got his crystal ball, but can I order one, please? Some of the offhand remarks about "the Blinks" (the terrible, highly contagious and almost instantly fatal disease) are painfully, well, funny, in a dark, black, bleak sort of way. From a diary entry, by one of Laura's companions ...

There's every single indication that the virus has taken a global toll. What's the word I'm looking for? Not an epidemic, but a --? Can't remember ...

Hmm, I think I can help you there (Later, down the page, he remembers. Pandemic. Yeah, I don't think we're going to forget that one for a while ...) And another one, from a teenager's blog the survivors discover, on an internet that it quietly folding in on itself, and vanishing (kind of like the City ...)

A few of us are still asymptomatic. We're holed up in the high school gym, away from everybody else. If it wasn't for the stupid quarantine, we'd be long gone by now ...

What breaks my heart -- and is SO DARN TRUE -- about that is how the high school jock throws around words like "asymptomatic" and "quarantine" as if they're the most natural things in the world. Brockmeier, in one line, captures how the virus even changes our vocabulary ...

Sadly, I am still not blown away by the final couple of chapter which IMHO, become too poetical, too airy-fairy. The real strengths of this fairy tale is how grounded it is, both in the ordinary, everyday world of the City, and in the snow and terrible loneliness of the Antarctic. BUT .. this is still a keeper, and highly recommended ... ( )
1 stem maura853 | Jul 11, 2021 |
Kevin Brockmeier takes an overdone cliche - the end of the world - and tells a moving and personal tale that makes the cliche new and exciting again. ( )
  illmunkeys | Apr 22, 2021 |
H1.32.7
  David.llib.cat | Jan 31, 2021 |
Viser 1-5 af 168 (næste | vis alle)
What if those enjoying the afterlife require for their continuing existence being remembered by Earthlings? ... Since the afterlife, as depicted here, is never believable (the denizens show little stress about their temporary status), the stakes of Laura’s sledding aren’t what Brockmeier hopes. ... In this speculative fiction, perhaps the most interesting element to wonder about is how Brockmeier will get away with blaming Coca-Cola for causing the pandemic. After a charming first chapter that imagines highly individual “crossings” to the other side, a novelistic virus called “The Flicks” debilitates the rest.
tilføjet af Lemeritus | RedigerKirkus Reviews (May 20, 2010)
 
Brockmeier's epigraph and the publisher's blurb spell out, pretty much, the connection between the doomed quest of Laura Byrd in the even-numbered chapters, and the denizens of the anomalous city in the odd-numbered ones. Such is his sensitivity and skill that Brockmeier contrives a mystery that is nonetheless subtle, absorbing, and ultimately satisfying. As befits a writer whose stated influences include Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping alongside JG Ballard and Italo Calvino, The Brief History is both formal and heartfelt, an elegiac fabulation on the fragile, ignorant beauty of human life.
tilføjet af Lemeritus | RedigerThe Guardian, Colin Greenland (Apr 7, 2006)
 
Between earth and whatever lies beyond, the inhabitants of a benevolent purgatory known simply as The City have realised that death can be a wonderful restorative. ... Just as they had originally believed that The City owed its existence to the memories of the living, so now the citizens are increasingly convinced that Laura herself sustains it. ...The prose spreads a patina of whimsy over even the most urgent emotions: the characters are sometimes hearts that think rather than people who feel. But for all its foibles, The Brief History of the Dead must be accounted a prodigy of imagination, insight and overwhelming tenderness.
 
Nobody in the novel is remotely interesting, even in their responses to their extraordinary predicaments. And the plot, although rich in dramatic possibility, limps along through various tedious digressions and flashbacks, failing to stimulate any real imaginative or intellectual excitement. The bold premise at the heart of "The Brief History of the Dead" could have offered the best sorts of complex pleasures, narrative and metaphysical, that science fiction has to offer. Instead it merely flounders, a waste of a perfectly good idea.
tilføjet af Lemeritus | RedigerThe New York Times, Patrick McGrath (pay site) (Mar 5, 2006)
 
...the brilliant question fueling the book is: What happens to the land of the dead-but-not-forgotten when the land of the living is destroyed? ... This conceit is also the book's primary weakness. The first half of The Brief History of the Dead is compelling and fascinating, full of interesting characters, lyrically restrained prose, and amusing bits of satire. The structure Brockmeier has created, though, limits him, making the second half of the novel a clever puzzle but not much more ... The weaknesses of the second half cut the wires suspending a logical reader's disbelief and let it drop to the ground and sprout questions about the way this afterlife is configured.
tilføjet af Lemeritus | RedigerSF Site, Matthew Cheney (Mar 1, 2006)
 
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Many African societies divide humans into three categories: those still alive on earth, the sasha, and the zamani. The recently departed whose time on earth overlapped with people still here are the sasha, the living-dead. They are not wholly dead for they still live in the memories of the living who can call them to mind, create their likeness in art, and bring them to life in anecdote. When the last person to know an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the sasha for the zamani, the dead. As generalized ancestors, the zamani are not forgotten but revered. Many ... can be recalled by name. But they are not the living dead. There is a difference.

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There was a flaw at the heart of their discussion, the blind man realized. They were mistaking the spirit for the soul. Many people tended to use the words casually, interchangeably, as though there was no difference at all between them, but the spirit and the soul were not the same thing. The body was the material component of a person. The soul was the nonmaterial component. The spirit was simply the connecting line.
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All residents of the City have recently died, and they will remain in the City only as long as someone still living on Earth remembers them. On Earth, however, the population has been devastated by terrible pandemic. Laura Byrd, isolated at an Antarctic research station, is running low on supplies and has only her memories to comfort her. The people of the City realize Laura is the common thread binding them together. But Laura, who may be the only person to have survived the pandemic, is running out of time--and her memories are fading.

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