The Brief History of the Dead

by

Author: Kevin Brockmeier

Title: The Brief History of the Dead

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2006

Pages: 252

Geographical Setting: Antarctica and The City (an afterlife inhabited by the dead whose memory is still alive on earth)

Time Period: An indeterminate, near future

Plot Summary: The City is an afterlife populated by the dead whose memory lives on in the world. The inhabitants of The City will remain there as long as someone who know them while alive continues to live on earth. On earth, though, a devastating epidemic has wiped out the population. Laura Byrd, a scientist stranded on an Antarctic research expedition, may be the last person alive. As the population of The City dwindles, the remaining residents begin to discover that Laura is the one thing they all have in common. With failing equipment, disappearing colleagues, and harsh conditions, Laura struggles to survive. Alternating between the perspectives of Laura and various inhabitants of The City, the story draws its characters through their memories.

Subject Headings: afterlife, apocalypse, death, memory, female scientists, Antarctica

Appeal: leisurely-paced, deliberate, structured, introspective (characters), well-drawn secondary characters, quirky, mystical, connective, episodic, flashbacks, tragic yet hopeful, stark, timeless, details of Antarctic expedition, bleak, contemplative, accessible, casual, graceful

Three terms that best describe this book: Contemplative, connective, reminiscent

Relevant Fiction Authors/Works: The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett—a combination of the extraordinary with the every-day, a concentration on memory, and colorful characters. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold—vivid afterlife, character-driven, and full of grace and wonder. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger—fantastic elements, well-drawn characters, reminiscence, various perspectives/times, purposefully driven.

Relevant Non-fiction Authors/Works: Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith by Studs Terkel—a collection of interviews with doctors, death-row parolees, survivors, AIDS workers, and others who have confronted the idea of death, their beliefs and expectations, their personal histories. Life After Death: The Burden of Proof by Deepak Chopra—combining spirituality with science, Chopra explores the concept of life after death, and death’s important place in the journey of a soul. Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski—a combination travelogue and memoir, this book tells the tale of a woman who moves to Antarctica to escape a painful relationship with her parents.

Name: Elizabeth Ludemann

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