Judith's Reviews > The Brief History of the Dead

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
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Aug 28, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: adultfiction
Read in July, 2006

I wanted to give this three and a half stars, but apparently I can't. I really thought this was wonderful--my downrating of it is because I found that some of the Antarctica sequences began to drag a little. But the premise is so fantastic, and the characters of the dead so beautifully realised, that it deserves a high rating.

The premise of the novel--which is set sometime in the forseeable future--is that some kind of plague has struck the Earth, and people are dying by the millions. The dead end up in an ever-expanding city (reminded me of Manhattan) where they live their deaths running business, dining out, maintaining relationships, very much as they did when alive. (They have completely corporeal bodies too.) Then the dead begin to disappear--just a few at a time at first, but then, just as they died in droves on Earth, so too does the city of the dead begin to empty. Those remaining are left to try and figure out what's going on.

Apparently the first chapter was originally published as a short story in the New Yorker, and as a short story it is quite brilliant, but I think Brockmeier succeeded in spinning the premise out for a full-length novel. I found myself very involved with the characters, caring very much for what would happen to them, especially the journalist and his new-found love, and for Laura, the woman stranded in the Antarctic, upon whom everything depends.

(It's also quite a vicious attack on the questionable morality of big business--I'm astonished Coca-Cola hasn't sued!)
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