The Brief History of the Dead
By: Kevin Brockmeier
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
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.
I forgot how I first found out about this book but it sounded really interesting and my kind of read so I decided to check it out last year.
The book started off on an interesting note: a city where the dead go, continue to live their lives (sort of) until their loved ones/people who remember them no longer do. It’s certainly a sad and haunting premise but for a while they are able to continue on, adjust so to speak to their circumstances and what had happened to them in life. Something curious happens where more inhabitants disappear suddenly which is a mystery to those who remain. At the same time Laura is survivin at an outpost in Antarctica wondering what happened to the scientists, about the Blinks/plague that has taken a hold of the world. The stories eventually show that the characters are interconnected somehow: the slow realisation that one character is related to another, knows another person, etc.
Admittedly I felt the story meandered in the latter third (although this might have also been because of what was going on on my end offline) and I didn’t feel a sense of resolution with the personal journeys, to the mystery that was overarching, of the impact of some realisations amde along the way about the instances in one’s life, the memories we hold, what impact we’ve made throughout our lives. So all in all, I thought The Brief History of the Dead was interesting but it lost me somewhere along the way. I think readers who enjoyed Station Eleven will enjoy this book–certainly reminded me of it at times.