The Brief History of the Dead

The Brief History of the Dead

Paperback - 2007
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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 City's 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.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2007, c2006.
Edition: First Vintage Contemporaries edition
ISBN: 9781400095957
Characteristics: 252 pages ;,21 cm.


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Jul 19, 2016

I really wanted to like this book. The conceit of the book was quite interesting but the writing was poor and the execution of the idea was never fully fleshed out. Great idea. The best thing about this book is the cover art. It was very cool. So maybe just look at the cover for a while, but don't bother reading the book.

cals_stewart May 10, 2016

Kevin. Can I call you Kevin? Look, Kevin.
My soul. This book did things. Two of the most memorable scenes I've ever read: Luka with the red balloon, and Laura taking off her gloves to climb the rope.
The city was nothing short of fascinating. I couldn't get enough of it, and I'm glad it was there to break up Laura's story. I liked Laura, but her journey was hard to read. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to write.
Are you ok? Do you need a hug?

Jul 24, 2015

I read this, probably about a decade ago, and it still haunts me (in the best possible way).

Nov 29, 2014

great concept, poor execution. i feel that this book should have been amazing, but it was just okay; pretty but muddled.

Jan 28, 2014

I can't add anything to what has been written below without giving too much away. I will say that this book is simply, delicately, and yet vividly written, and that it's compelling and devastating. It's not exactly science fiction, though it contains strong elements of SF. It's certainly speculative fiction. Metaphysical fiction, maybe?

If you need to know up front precisely what is happening and why, you'll probably want to avoid this book. If you can tolerate some ambiguity as you watch a world being built brushstroke by brushstroke, and being more and more shaken as you proceed, pick this one up.

JeremiahSutherland Aug 10, 2013

A completely pointless book. It has an interesting premise; the world is being depopulated by a military virus and the dead exist in an alternate city as long as someone who remembers them is alive.

This is an example of an "auteur" who is more interested in plumbing the depths of his characters' psyche than writing an actual plot.

ChristchurchLib May 20, 2013

"In "the city," the afterlife inhabited by the recently dead (they remain there only as long as they are remembered by someone still alive), the transient population undergoes rapid change as a deadly virus decimates the living. Soon the city is nearly empty and only a handful remain - the parents, friends, acquaintances and former lovers of a woman named Laura, stranded in an Antarctic research station. In chapters alternating between Laura, struggling for survival, and those in the city as they attempt to build new lives, Kevin Brockmeier reflects on human relationships in a "beautiful, delicate manner" (Publishers Weekly)." May 2013 Fiction A to Z newsletter

Jul 14, 2012

I truly enjoyed this tale; the writing is lovely, clear, and crafted. The story itself unfolds in an unhurried but fascinating plot line. I was not bored. It reminded me, in his way, of the novel "Death of an Ordinary Man" by Glen Duncan.
Here's a story that explores the "afterlife" using the idea found in some non-Judeo-Christian belief systems. It gives a bit of a different perspective and one that is key to the plot.
The writing is unhurried even though the pacing is not. I found myself eager to keep reading and the calm, measured voice of the writer encouraged me along without raising my blood pressure the way a thriller might.
I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

Jul 27, 2011

Gorgeous writing, compelling and with a simple, but unique plot. I can't tell too much without giving it away, but it's simply amazing. If you like this, try Sum: Tales of the Afterlife.

Jul 19, 2011

Laura Byrd knew a lot of people and these people, when felled by a world wide virus, are glad that she did! They are all sent to a city before they can move on to the next place, whatever that will be. And since they only stay as long as Laura remembers them, then Laura must be the last surviving person on earth. What will happen to them when she goes? A thought provoking and truly unique look at life and death.

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