nancymae, February 2, 2010 (view all comments by nancymae)
I had no expectations for this book, but it sucked me right in with its alternating chapters about the City of the Dead and about Laura Byrd, alone in the Antarctic after a lethal worldwide virus. While not a long book (around 250pp.), it reminded me of 100 Years of Solitude in its brilliant depiction of the occupants of a city apart, how they relate to each other, and their ties to a woman trying to survive in bleak conditions.
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joannaz, August 14, 2009 (view all comments by joannaz)
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel dealing with death and what may come next. As someone who is not inherently religious, I find this an interesting alternative to traditional Western ideas of the afterlife. Overall a really nice read!
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Madam Pince, July 12, 2008 (view all comments by Madam Pince)
Like most people in their forties, I've lost several friends to death, and this take on what comes beyond is not only one of the most original and thought-provoking stories I've ever read, but has prompted me to think more frequently of those who have departed. If the dead truly do live on in the memories of those they leave behind, then Kevin Brockmeier has written a field guide to the afterlife.
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The Brief History of the Dead (Vintage Contemporaries)
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Vintage Books USA -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by 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 love — but only if Laura can keep them afloat. Other subplots are equally convincing and reflect on relationships in a beautiful, delicate manner; the book seems to say that, in a way, the virus has already arrived." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day"
by Anna Godbersen, Esquire,
"Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead is perhaps the most densely romantic novel I have ever read to also feature a deadly airborne virus and a satire of marketing gimmicks....The idea of the city threatens, at times, to become mawkish...but it is rescued by the thoroughness and weirdness of its conceit....Brockmeier has not only written an allegory of our connection to those we have lost, but he has shot it through with the darkest fears of our times." (read the entire Esquire review)
by Boston Globe,
"It is both an evocative novel and a fanciful one, both spooky and riveting....What's memorable and moving about Brockmeier's novel are the pieces of consciousness that form the life and then outlive it."
"Brockmeier...spends too much time on earthbound Laura...and not enough on the eerie and infinitely more interesting afterworld. Although it never quite lives up to its promising premise, the novel's Borges-like spirit will appeal to select readers."
by Detroit Free Press,
"In his brilliant new novel, The Brief History of the Dead, afterlife in the City seems pleasant enough....Brockmeier's characters are wonderful, and his images are dazzling."
by Colson Whitehead, author of The Colossus of New York,
"The Brief History of the Dead is a brilliant high-wire act, at turns terrifying, wise, and humane. Kevin Brockmeier builds an intricate labyrinth, then guides us through with wit and aplomb."
by Library Journal,
"Beautifully written and brilliantly realized, this imaginative work from the author of The Truth About Celia delivers a startling sense of what it really means to be alive. Highly recommended."
by Cleveland Plain Dealer,
"Brockmeier is a wonderful writer who knows how to set up an image, pick a verb and convey a sound....[N]obody should cheat themselves of the playful, disturbing, philosophical and funny riffs that Brockmeier manages."
by Philadelphia Inquirer,
"This could have been a spectacular book about love, loss and memory. Instead, the slow pace, endless travel, and uneventful narratives leave one disappointed and unsatisfied."
by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
"It's a gracefully written story that blends fantasy, philosophical speculation, adventure and crystalline moments of compassion without ever feeling forced or lumpy."
by Chicago Tribune,
"[T]his writer has nothing but an enthusiasm for life, and the marvelous inventions of his stories, both lovely and loving, are a tremendous infusion of energy in an often exhausted and exhausting world."
by Kevin Baker, author of Paradise Alley,
"Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead is moving and disquieting, a 'futuristic' novel that is really an elegy for how we live now."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"Brockmeier's second novel, The Brief History of the Dead, is meticulously imagined. And his writing is as elegant as it was in 2003's The Truth About Celia, even if the end result isn't as wrenching. (Grade: B)"
From Kevin Brockmeier, one of this generation's most inventive young writers, comes a striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between. The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the Citys only newspaper, are wondering what exactly is going on. Others, like Coleman Kinzler, believe it is the beginning of the end. Meanwhile, Laura Byrd is trapped in an Antarctic research station, her supplies are running low, her radio finds only static, and the power is failing. With little choice, Laura sets out across the ice to look for help, but time is running out. Kevin Brockmeier alternates these two storylines to create a lyrical and haunting story about love, loss and the power of memory.
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