The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce

Another haunting read.  This one with an actual ghost.  The Afterlives is a subtle blend of technological fiction and an investigation into life after death.  When Jim Byrd dies (for several minutes), he sees “nothing, no lights, no tunnel, no angels.” This sends him on a quest to investigate the afterlife.

This story takes place in the near future and deals with some technological fiction including a phone app that monitors Jim’s heart and guest lectures from holograms.  These technological innovations play only a supporting role in the book, but they are there and for me, make “the machine” more plausible.

While Jim and his wife, Annie, are exploring possible answers to their big philosophical questions, they track down and find a woman who claims to have invented a machine that allows people to communicate with dead loved ones.  Her explanation is that people are only ever 93% in this world anyhow.  A stretch, but interesting nonetheless.

Between Jim’s existential wanderings, there is an older story of the ghost before she was a ghost.  I found myself looking forward to these interludes.  The dead woman’s story is told through multiple perspectives, truly giving the reader a sense of her time and place in history.  The tying together of past and future was handled masterfully.

While the characters were delightfully flawed, I found them to be believable and their quest an entertaining one.  As a person who has experienced loss, I find talk of the next life or what happens after our bodies are no longer viable, fascinating.  The concept that we are only ever 93% in this world was difficult for me to grasp.  But I do find it sticks with me as I spend more time mulling it over.

This was Pierce’s debut novel, and I will keep him on my radar for future adventures.

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