Lucas's Reviews > What Dreams May Come

What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson
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's review
Mar 06, 2012

really liked it
Read in March, 2011

This is a book about the afterlife. I'm an agnostic and a skeptic, but I still enjoyed the mechanics of this story's hereafter.

The afterlife of WDMC is a kinder gentler one than you will hear from a televangelist. It's heavy on reincarnation, and the lyrics to Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" pretty much explain the whole concept. But in between lives, you can hang in the afterlife which is kind of like a vacation spot where swimming doesn't get you wet. There's also a sort of soul university. The bad part of the netherworld, while scary, is more akin to the Greek underwold than Dante's Inferno. Also, you don't get stuck there for eternity.

If you've seen the Robin Williams movie, you know the story, but there are a few differences. Gone are the subplots about the son who sucks at math and the daughter who secretly wishes she was Asian (perhaps she sucks at math too). Also the movie makes the afterlife more Judeo-Christian. So where in the movie, the hero is risking an eternity in Hell to retrieve his wife, he's only risking something like 27 years in the underworld in the book. Of course, that plot wouldn't fly in Hollywood where the bomb is always stopped at 00:00:00:01.

The author starts the book by saying his version of what happens when you die is absolutely true and the product of lots of research. Again, skeptic, but he at least ends the book with all the material that brought him to his conclusion, should I ever want to check on it.

I think most afterlife stories are designed to pander to the hopes or fears of people who are terrified of the unknown and want desperately to believe their soul will not be annihilated but instead will be riding rainbow ponies forever. This book didn't feel like it was trying to push that button and is just an afterlife story. That earned some points with me. I wouldn't mind if the afterlife was more like "Higher Ground" than say "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," and frankly, the universe would make more sense if that were the case.

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