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Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

by

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives Cover

ISBN13: 9780307377340
ISBN10: 0307377342
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

SUM is a dazzling exploration of funny and unexpected afterlives that have never been considered-each presented as a vignette that offers us a stunning lens through which to see ourselves here and now.

In one afterlife you may find that God is the size of a microbe and is unaware of your existence. In another, your creators are a species of dim-witted creatures who built us to figure out what they could not. In a different version of the afterlife you work as a background character in other peoples dreams. Or you may find that God is a married couple struggling with discontent, or that the afterlife contains only those people whom you remember, or that the hereafter includes the thousands of previous gods who no longer attract followers. In some afterlives you are split into your different ages; in some you are forced to live with annoying versions of yourself that represent what you could have been; in others you are re-created from your credit card records and Internet history. David Eagleman proposes many versions of our purpose here; we are mobile robots for cosmic mapmakers, we are reunions for a scattered confederacy of atoms, we are experimental subjects for gods trying to understand what makes couples stick together.

These wonderfully imagined tale-at once funny, wistful, and unsettling-are rooted in science and romance and awe at our mysterious existence: a mixture of death, hope, computers, immortality, love, biology, and desire that exposes radiant new facets of our humanity.

Review:

"A clever little book by a neuroscientist translates lofty concepts of infinity and death into accessible human terms. What happens after we die? Eagleman wonders in each of these brief, evocative segments. Are we consigned to replay a lifetime's worth of accumulated acts, as he suggests in 'Sum,' spending six days clipping your nails or six weeks waiting for a green light? Is heaven a bureaucracy, as in 'Reins,' where God has lost control of the workload? Will we download our consciousnesses into a computer to live in a virtual world, as suggested in 'Great Expectations,' where 'God exists after all and has gone through great trouble and expense to construct an afterlife for us'? Or is God actually the size of a bacterium, battling good and evil on the 'battlefield of surface proteins,' and thus unaware of humans, who are merely the 'nutritional substrate'? Mostly, the author underscores in 'Will-'o-the-Wisp,' humans desperately want to matter, and in afterlife search out the 'ripples left in our wake.' Eagleman's turned out a well-executed and thought-provoking book." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

A dazzling work of fiction, these brief vignettes present a stunning array ofpossible worlds awaiting each person in the afterlife.

About the Author

DAVID EAGLEMAN grew up in New Mexico. As an undergraduate he majored in British and American Literature before earning his PhD in Neuroscience. He heads the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine, and is founder and director of the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. At night he writes fiction.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Fred Francis, November 19, 2009 (view all comments by Fred Francis)
These forty short stories speculate the forms an afterlife might take. They are conceptual, thought-provoking, quirky, and often quite poetic. In length they remind me of Etgar Keret's stories, but in tone they conjure up hints of Italo Calvino's works. I enjoyed the brevity of the tales, and I think the author David Eagleman has a style that is both lyrical and compact, but I couldn't help but wonder how much more resonance some of the stories might achieve if their concepts had been expanded. This is all to say that I would happily read more of his work, and I hope that he attempts something in a longer form, because I thoroughly enjoyed these tales.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
mhartford, April 14, 2009 (view all comments by mhartford)
In the afterlife, you will populate the dreams of the living, as others who have moved on to the next stage of death populate yours; you will meet old gods, bereft of their worshipers, reduced to a deathless, homeless nomadism; you will be a series of e-mail autoresponders and cron jobs, maintaining the web of human relationships long after the last human being has returned to dust.

The forty visions of the afterlife presented in Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives are contradictory, mutually exclusive, and fascinating. They are as likely to be atheistic as suffused with God (or gods), both technological and supernatural. Eagleman doesn’t present anything like stories–there are no characters, only the barest hint of plot or setting. And they aren’t really prose poems, either, though some are heartbreakingly lyrical and elegiacal. They are more like scientific or philosophical thought experiments, taking a notion (whether from a traditional view of death, or from some flight of fancy) and extending it to its final implications. (That Eagleman is neuroscientist, with other publications in topics like synesthesia and the brain’s plasticity, should not surprise readers of “Sum.”) The pieces are brief–one or two pages for the most part, the longest no more than five–but they are rich in insight and inference.

If there’s a common thread that runs through the book, it’s disappointment. The afterlife is never quite what its inhabitants (including the intelligence behind it) expected. In one piece, humans have been created as sophisticated mapping machines unleashed on the Earth’s surface to record its every contour and corner; and though they do spread far and wide as designed, they spend much more time mapping themselves and each other than their designers intended. In another, God gives each ascending soul the book of true knowledge, which should answer every secret question, but because the answers are so different from what people have learned from their own flawed books of knowledge they refuse to believe, insisting on holding to their old beliefs about God and Heaven.

Love, too, is a unifying theme, and the source of much of the book’s lyricism. Eagleman is too much of a realist, or at least too conscious of disappointment, to suggest that love is the true afterlife, or that love will defeat death; but he does imply, in ways both touching and funny, that love is a mystery at least as troubling as death, and certainly the source of much that makes this side of the afterlife delightful.
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(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
Benjamin Buntaine, March 4, 2009 (view all comments by Benjamin Buntaine)
I have not read this book yet however I heard the author being interviewed on the national public radio show ,"on point" by tom ashbrook and it sounded extremely funny and equally interesting. Subsequently, I do plan on buying and reading it very soon.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307377340
Subtitle:
Forty Tales from the Afterlives
Author:
Eagleman, David
Publisher:
Pantheon
Subject:
God
Subject:
Future life
Subject:
Visionary & metaphysical
Subject:
Visionary & Metaphysics
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20090210
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
107
Dimensions:
7.66x4.74x.65 in. .47 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Metaphysics » Near Death Experiences and Reincarnation

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 107 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780307377340 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "A clever little book by a neuroscientist translates lofty concepts of infinity and death into accessible human terms. What happens after we die? Eagleman wonders in each of these brief, evocative segments. Are we consigned to replay a lifetime's worth of accumulated acts, as he suggests in 'Sum,' spending six days clipping your nails or six weeks waiting for a green light? Is heaven a bureaucracy, as in 'Reins,' where God has lost control of the workload? Will we download our consciousnesses into a computer to live in a virtual world, as suggested in 'Great Expectations,' where 'God exists after all and has gone through great trouble and expense to construct an afterlife for us'? Or is God actually the size of a bacterium, battling good and evil on the 'battlefield of surface proteins,' and thus unaware of humans, who are merely the 'nutritional substrate'? Mostly, the author underscores in 'Will-'o-the-Wisp,' humans desperately want to matter, and in afterlife search out the 'ripples left in our wake.' Eagleman's turned out a well-executed and thought-provoking book." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , A dazzling work of fiction, these brief vignettes present a stunning array ofpossible worlds awaiting each person in the afterlife.
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