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Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

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At once funny, wistful and unsettling, Sum is a dazzling exploration of unexpected afterlives—each presented as a vignette that offers a stunning lens through which to see ourselves in the here and now. In one afterlife, you may find that God is the size of a microbe and unaware of your existence. In another version, you work as a background character in other people’s dreams. Or you may find that God is a married couple, or that the universe is running backward, or that you are forced to live out your afterlife with annoying versions of who you could have been. With a probing imagination and deep understanding of the human condition, acclaimed neuroscientist David Eagleman offers wonderfully imagined tales that shine a brilliant light on the here and now.

110 pages, Hardcover

First published April 1, 2009

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About the author

David Eagleman

48 books3,072 followers
David Eagleman is an internationally bestselling author, a TED speaker, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He teaches neuroscience at Stanford University and is CEO of a neurotech startup, Neosensory. At night he writes. His books have been translated into 33 languages.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,685 reviews
Profile Image for RandomAnthony.
394 reviews110 followers
June 7, 2010
In the afterlife you discover that all the goodreaders are in the same walled-off section of heaven. God greets you in the form of your ideal librarian. In the goodreads heaven library you witness the librarian gamut: examples include a fatherly professor, a stern but gentle middle-aged woman, and a supermodel in a plaid skirt with legs that won’t quit. If you are a seventeen year old girl God is a combination of Ben Harrison and that guy from 500 Days of Summer.

The more time you spent on goodreads the more status you have in heaven. When you first arrive God checks the library computer (there are never lines, as everyone’s different version of God has his/her own computer) and gives you a badge that displays your total hours logged onto goodreads. If you have logged many hours God shakes your hand, high-fives you, or blows you kisses. The people with the most time on their badges (these badges are gold) get the best tables at the goodreads heaven coffee shop and pick what the book clubs read. Ginny Jones is the coffee shop waitress but is never allowed to read any books. If you were involved in any goodreads fights, or ever deleted your profile, God wags his/her finger at you and makes you apologize to all involved parties. If the fight was especially egregious God makes you hug. In goodreads heaven you always look like your favorite avatar picture. In goodreads heaven you can always find your favorite place to read, whether it’s on the subway, your childhood bedroom, or the library’s corner chair. In goodreads heaven your favorite characters come to life. Many of the women goodreaders are walking around with men who look suspiciously like Jamie from Outlander.

The heaven goodreaders voted and decided that books should continue to have tangible form. They liked the smell of old pages, the feel of a trade paperback, and the sense of anticipation accompanying the moment when the librarian hands over your reserve order. Some dissenters lobbied that readers should only have to touch a cover to absorb a book’s contents, but just about everyone else said that was cheating. The dissenters were especially upset because they felt like everyone else had read Coetzee and Murakami and they wanted to catch up, but the majority ruled against them.

In goodreads heaven friend whores are in trouble. They are required to take every friend to dinner and listen to them talk for at least an hour. This was a reasonable punishment for those who wanted to pad their friends list, but God soon realized that this allowed creepy guys who only friended women the opportunity to talk with these women face to face. In turn these girl collectors can only talk with each other. They share tales of the best pics and attempt to interact with cute goodreaders but discover that, as if they were ghosts, no one but other girl collectors can see them.

In Goodreads heaven you meet David Eagleman, the author of Sum. You tell him you liked his book, for the most part, but wonder if he realizes that he stole “Graveyard of the Gods” from Neil Gaiman (Mr. Gaiman doesn’t have time to worry about this because goodreaders are chasing him all over heaven) and that some of the forty themes (e.g. heaven is so boring it’s hell, people get sick of immortality and volunteer for suicide) have been done before. You tell him some of his vignettes (“Mirrors”) are moving, while others (“Death Switch”) are funny and still more (“Blueprint”) thoughtful. You thank him for expanding consideration of the afterlife beyond our limited western hemisphere mindset. You admit that Sum didn’t rock your world but add that a few of your goodreads friends loved his book. He seems distracted and questions when he’ll meet these people. You also ask where you can find his publisher, since this book (which you got from the library, of course) lists for twenty bucks but takes less time to read than People magazine’s “best dressed” issue (not that, uh, you ever wasted a minute on magazines back on earth, of course not). Eagleman shrugs and walks off. Then you see your librarian with the next book on your reserve list. You blink to your perfect reading spot. You sip from a cup of coffee, all the time in the world, and open to the first page.

Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
November 12, 2020
David Eagleman - image from his site

You do not have to be a subscriber to any of the more common religions in this world to harbor some notion, some hope, that there might be a form of personal existence beyond death. Eagelman has come up with forty possible post-mortem futures and offers them up in bite-size stories in this slim volume. The tales range from tedious to inspired. There is an O-Henry-esque tale in which a man’s greatest desire is to become a horse. A vision of God as being fascinated with Mary Shelley’s masterpiece was inspired. Some portray people as cogs in a much larger reality; some are morality stories in which we come face to face with the true nature of who we were during our actual lives. People can be cancer cells in the body of God or walking recorders in a vast experiment, sometimes we are the experiment. As with science fiction, a consideration of the post-mortal applies its selected mask to foibles, values and triumphs of humans. The images that are created are views of ourselves as we are, and not so much as we might be.

There is a great deal of clever in this collection, interesting ideas, too many devoid of personal or emotional content. Occasionally I found myself reviving my inner teen, rolling my eyes and muttering “whatever,” but a few pages on would come across a story that was wonderful. If you can tolerate the ups and downs and are willing to work through a lot of lesser notions to get to the jewels, Sum is well worth reading. It will not take up much of what little time you have left.

============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, FB, Twitter, and GR pages
Profile Image for Sam.
6 reviews5 followers
November 10, 2008
This book blew me away; I underlined and starred dozens of sentences and typed them in to my friends on email. Sum tells 40 vignettes from the afterlife, but you quickly figure out that (a) the stories are mutually exclusive (if one is true then the others cannot be), and (b) the stories are not about the afterlife at all, but instead unusual portraits about the here-and-now. After I read it I found out that the author David Eagleman is a brain scientist during the day, and that explains a bit about the words he chooses and the way he imagines things outside the normal storytelling box. It's a rare and successful mix of literature and future-oriented thinking. I feel like a I got mentally stretched quite a bit. Someone on this forum here made a comparison of this book to Borges, which I agree with -- and I also think Italo Calvino would be an appropriate comparison. For a stimulating read with a dense array of new ideas that will stick with you for a long time to come, I recommend it highly.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,485 reviews843 followers
June 24, 2023
“Everyone is a brother to all, and for the first time an idea has been realized that never came to fruition on Earth: true equality. The Communists are baffled and irritated, because they have finally achieved their perfect society, but only by the help of a God in whom they don’t want to believe. The meritocrats are abashed that they’re stuck for eternity in an incentiveless system with a bunch of pinkos. The conservatives have no penniless to disparage; the liberals have no downtrodden to promote. So God sits on the edge of Her bed and weeps at night, because the only thing everyone can agree upon is that they’re all in Hell.”

I recently re-read this and still love it. I’ll leave my original review below and add some excerpts now. I’ve read or browsed through this several times, and I never remember all the possibilities, but I definitely remember the sense of “be careful what you wish for” that permeates all of the stories.

The quotation above shows that in that example, nobody’s happy, including God Herself. This is from a chapter titled “Descent”

“In the afterlife, you are treated to a generous opportunity: you can choose whatever you would like to be in the next life.”

What a great idea! (What could possibly go wrong?)

You think a simple, unhurried life sounds good, one with no major decisions to make. You give it some thought and figure you might try life as a horse this time. You make your choice, and as your mind begins to slowly change, easing you into your new, peaceful form . . .

“You realize that the next time you return here, with your thick horse brain, you won’t have the capacity to ask to become a human again. You won’t understand what a human is. Your choice to slide down the intelligence ladder is irreversible. And just before you lose your final human faculties, you painfully ponder what magnificent extraterrestrial creature, enthralled with the idea of finding a simpler life, chose in the last round to become a human.”

What alien life form did we descend from then? Ah, it’s wonderful, and no two chapters are the same. I’ll be ready to enjoy them again one day, I’m sure.

p.s. I listened to many of the stories on the audio version and they were terrific. Different narrators - both male and female voices with different native accents. Great way to differentiate the stories.

2011 brief review [and I DID buy a copy].

Loved this one! May have to lash out and actually BUY a copy. (I'm a library lover who has given away countless books with every move.)

The tales are short, inventive, thought-provoking imaginings of what comes after life. I recommend reading only one or two at a time to let the ideas soak in. Now, I look forward to reading them again because I'm never going to remember all the options of what lies beyond Door Number Two.

In The Guardian in November 2022, Booker Prize winner Shehan Karunatilaka, who wrote The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, about an afterlife (or two), said:

“I read 'Sum' by David Eagleman every year, sometimes twice. It contains 40 stories or vignettes, each a page or two long. Each tale opens new doors in your consciousness and the book seems to change every time I read it. Mind-blowing stuff that should be made compulsory in schools.”

My review of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
552 reviews166 followers
August 6, 2019
Now I've read Sum twice. First on a plane flight in one big sitting, then years later one story a day for 40 days. Honestly, the first way was better. The stories that are good are really, really good. But none of them have much staying power, so the emotional rollercoaster of reading them one after another was more fun and more resonant than taking my time.

5 stars on my first reading, 4 stars on my second.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,049 reviews4,117 followers
March 29, 2012
My favourite video game of all time is a homemade 2D platformer on the little-known Yaroze—a black, programmable Playstation—called Time Slip . In this game you are a snail with a one-minute lifespan who has to use his time on screen to stand on buttons that open doors to other parts of the level. Once the minute is up, the snail is reincarnated as another snail at the beginning of the level, or at the latest checkpoint. The ghost of your previous snail remains on the map, reliving its movements after its time is up, with more and more fresh snails coming until the map gets clogged up with past selves. If you come into contact with any of your previous snail-selves, it’s game over. This raises quite a profound metaphysical conundrum for a cheapo game coded by two nerds. Imagine if we had the chance to live our lives over, in the same circumstances, with knowledge of our previous selves altering how we moved through the world, but relying on certain foundations having been laid in these previous lives for advancement in our then-present lives. Like concentric Russian dolls whose contact would spell extinction.

Knowing we had freedom to live multiple, or endless lifetimes, with the only caveat no touching our previous selves, how would this effect how we try to solve the frustrations and problems in our present lives, knowing contact with people in our previous lives would be limited to the few moments our past selves weren’t in contact with these people? For example, can you imagine how tiring it must be for someone married to seven reincarnations of the same person, having to tend to all their needs like a revolving-door of husbands/wives? How could we stay away from people, knowing our presence there would increase the chance of our own death? How could we order our lives so that our legacies built up over two hundred or so years? What if we peaked in our first lives, and the subsequent reincarnations are simply failures and frustrations?

Not bad for a Yaroze game—normally it’s variations on Tetris or Space Invaders. These clever short fictions posit such conundrums about the afterlife, from ‘Sum,’ where all the aspects of our lives are arranged in order, i.e. ten years of pain, two weeks writing reviews on Goodreads, or ‘Reversal’ where we live our lives backwards upon death, realising we have misremembered our lives, and are unable to identify ourselves in the rewind. These two tales open and close the collection. Using his background in neuroscience, Eagleman pens delightful hypothetical fables, largely whimsical and ingenious. Daintily packaged and teasingly slim, so almost impossible to resist. I heard about this book via this Intelligence Squared talk with Will Self.
Profile Image for Caroline .
429 reviews593 followers
November 21, 2016

An enjoyable set of inventive "what if?" vignettes, Sum is Eagleman's envisionings of various versions of the afterlife. All are impressively unique, and some really stretch the mind. Be sure to open this book while fully alert. Eagleman's background as a neuroscientist is, at times, on full display in these pages as some of his ideas veer into the complex and obscure with talk of quarks and atoms. Readers not inclined toward the scientific may find these boring. Fortunately, the collection contains plenty of vignettes that will appeal more to the everyday reader, and those really make it a joy to read.
Profile Image for ann.
34 reviews3 followers
July 20, 2009
Some of these stories were indeed imaginative scenarios of what the afterlife is like or what God might be like. But because his Heaven or God is always imagined as some inversion of a human hierarchy or scale...it gets repetitive very fast. God always lacks some human quality that intrinsically keeps him as God and us as humans, or...he's just like us, but just a smaller or larger scale. Because his Heaven is always some rearranged variation of the human life, all the stories start to sound the same.

Because these stories are so hypothetical and abstract, they become very repetitive and you feel as if he's flogged his one trick pony to death by the end of the book.

I also disliked the author's photo...not his looks, just the photo.

For those who did like it you might want to check out "Pieces for the Left Hand" by John Lennon who writes in a similar deadpan way about everyday life. His stories are imagintave in an engaging in a personal way rather than just hypothetical way.
Profile Image for Intellectual_Thighs.
239 reviews379 followers
January 4, 2021
Διάβασα το Sum, που είναι 40 μικρές ιστορίες για τη μετά θάνατον ζωή(;) (κάποιες έξυπνες, άλλες αστείες, μπλακμιρόριζαν κάποιες άλλες) και σκέφτομαι, ΤΙ ΚΑΛΑ, θα γράψω μια εξυπνακίστικη δική μου παραλλαγή και μετά θα φιλήσω τα μπράτσα μου ΑΓΆΠΗ ΜΌΝΟ, αχμμμ, για να σκεφτώ όμως, πώς φαντάζομαι εγώ το επέκεινα, οεο;

Θέλησα λοιπόν να μιλήσω για το θάνατο, αλλά ως συνήθως, μπήκε η ζωή στη μέση...

Κι έπεσα στο Ο Θάνατος της Νυχτοπεταλούδας, ένα τόσο δα κειμενάκι που γράφτηκε από τη Γουλφ λίγες μέρες πριν αυτοκτονήσει. Η συγγραφέας είναι στο γραφείο της και παρατηρεί μια νυχτοπεταλούδα καθώς ψυχορραγεί στο τζάμι του παραθύρου. Και είναι από τα πιο σημαντικά κείμενα που έχω διαβάσει τα τελευταία χρόνια.

Ένα όμορφο πρωινό του Σεπτεμβρίου, όπου η ζωή φαίνεται να επικρατεί και να κερδίζει απλώνοντας τις ενεργειακές της ίνες μέσα σε όλα τα πλάσματα, η προσοχή πέφτει στο ζωντανό εύθραυστο λιλιπούτειο κορμί μιας νυχτοπεταλούδας που πετάει από τη μια γωνιά του τζαμιού στην άλλη, γιατί μονάχα αυτό μπορούσε να κάνει, αυτός ήταν ο τρόπος της να εκμεταλλεύεται τη ζωτική της ενέργεια παρά τις άπειρες δυνατότητες που θα μπορούσε να έχει γεννημένη ως κάτι άλλο. Έκανε αυτό που μπορούσε να κάνει.
Σε λίγο, κουρασμένη και μη μπορώντας να συνεχίσει, πέφτει ανάσκελα στο περβάζι. Ποιον αντιμαχόταν; Η ζωή είναι γύρω μας, τη βλέπουμε παντού, ο θάνατος πού βρίσκεται κρυμμένος; Γιατί ξαφνικά πήγαινε κόντρα σε κάτι τόσο μικρό κι ανάξιο; Είμαστε όλοι με το μέρος της ζωής, θέλουμε να επικρατήσει, δεν γνωρίζουμε τον θάνατο όμως βλέπουμε αυτό που αφήνει, την ηττημένη ζωή και προσδοκούμε πάντα την ανατροπή.

"Ο άνθρωπος έχει την τάση να ξεχνάει τι είναι ζωή όταν τη βλέπει σκυφτή, βασανισμένη, στολισμένη και γεμάτη εμπόδια, αναγκασμένη να προχωράει με τη μέγιστη περίσκεψη κι αξιοπρέπεια."
Η μάχη ακόμα και για μια τέτοια ζωή, που κανένας δεν εκτιμά, είναι μια ακόμα απόδειξη του μεγαλείου της συμπαντικής αυτής ενέργειας που μας ενώνει και είναι σημαντικότερη του θανάτου, ακόμα κι αν στο τέλος πάντα χάνει.

*Σκεφτόμαστε πάντα τον θάνατο ως καθρέφτισμα της ζωής, προσπαθούμε να φανταστούμε το μετά με γνώριμους όρους και οικείες σταθερές. Ζούμε με το φόβο του και παίρνουμε έτσι το μεγαλύτερο θαύμα, αυτό της ζωής, της ύπαρξης, ως κάτι δεδομένο. Το Sum είναι ένα βιβλίο που ξορκίζει ανάλαφρα αυτό το φόβο, με τα όπλα που έχουμε απέναντί του. Το χιούμορ και τη φαντασία. Ο Θάνατος της Νυχτοπεταλούδας τον παρουσιάζει σαν τον κακομαθημένο δίδυμο αδερφό της ζωής που έχει μάθει πάντα να κερδίζει. Δεν θα είναι ποτέ ο αγαπημένος κάποιου, αλλά τον αποδεχόμαστε γιατί είναι συγγενής...
Profile Image for Cheryl.
329 reviews272 followers
September 5, 2011
This is a suite of variations on the possibilities of different kinds of afterlives. Each of the forty tales is usually only about a couple of pages long, but each one is densely packed with mind-bending what-ifs. He imagines wildly different ways that an afterlife, if it existed, could be structured. Some are exquisitely sad, such as this first paragraph from 'Metamorphosis': "There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time." Others offer the possibility of a sublime eternity, in which the self is split into an infinite set of selves, as in a prism, which exist simultaneously, and interact, as multiple versions of the self at different ages, meeting together periodically at reunions.
This is one to re-read, in parts, randomly. Delightful.
Profile Image for Deniz Balcı.
Author 2 books600 followers
January 27, 2019
“Ve…Sonraki Hayattan Kırk Öykü” beni çocukluğuma götüren bir kitap oldu. Hayal gücümün henüz çok örselenmediği hayatımın ilk yıllarında sürekli evrene, varoluşa ve Tanrı’ya dair gülünç ama kendimce mantıklı fikirlerin hayalini kurardım. Bu kitapta da aynı öyle tasavvurlar var. Eğlenceli ve zihni geliştiren bir okuma vaat ettiğini söyleyebilirim. Ancak ben öyküleri arka arkaya okuma hatasına düştüm. Öyle olunca sürekli kendini tekrar eden ve birbirinin üzerine binen parçacıkları okumuş oldum ve nihayetinde de sıkıldım. Diğer yandan öyküler o kadar kısa ki bu benim alışık olduğum bir kurmaca süresi değil. İki sayfa da anlatılan şey iki dakikada akıldan uçar gibi bir hissin içine düştüm. Şuan bir iki tane öyküyü hatırlıyorum. Yine de keyifli ve farklı bir okuma olduğunu söyleyebilirim. Yine de siz okurken bir iki tane okuyup, ara verip, ilerleyin bence.

Herkese iyi okumalar dilerim.
Profile Image for Amy | littledevonnook.
201 reviews1,195 followers
March 21, 2016
Such a quaint little read!

I didn't know what to expect when going into this book but I was pleasantly surprised. Eagleman takes the reader to mystical and dark places as he contemplates what the afterlife may hold. From a heaven where Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) is Queen to an afterlife where you act as the extras in living peoples dreams - this book is a real look into an incredible imagination. Although each tale is only a couple of pages long I was fully transported to each ghostly world. It was truly magical!

I would highly recommend to any lover of fantasy/magical realism.
Profile Image for Alyssa Banguilan.
7 reviews4 followers
March 23, 2009
Want to stretch your mind for a bit? Check out this little book packed with imaginative possibilities of what happens after you die. Written by a neuroscientist, Sum captures many facets of the Afterlife that are told succinctly in a series of vignettes that pull from science, fantasy, sci-fi, mythology, pop culture, religion, and probably a few nightmares and daydreams. But what if....?
Profile Image for Natali.
455 reviews287 followers
March 26, 2009
If I could give this book 6 stars I would! I thought it was brilliant and I plan to read it again and often.

Sum is a collection of short stories that are visions of the way we could conceive of life after we die. It is a clever way to think about your life from afar. It alternates between esoteric, profound, and hilarious.
Profile Image for Julie.
125 reviews7 followers
March 21, 2009
I loved this book. Normally I find it difficult to read an entire volume of short fiction (the stories in this book are so short they could almost be called sudden fiction), but this collection of hypothetical versions of the afterlife was so cleverly done that I couldn't stop reading it. Brilliant! Even though I've already read it I want to buy a copy to add to my personal library.
Profile Image for Kent.
31 reviews9 followers
March 27, 2009
A beautiful elegy for the lives we have chosen to lead or not to lead. Sum is a wonderous piece of writing. While the book is comprised of 40 imaginings of the afterlife, it is much more a celebration of everything which has come before it. After reading Sum, I was left awestruck again by the world around us.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Profile Image for Maria.
79 reviews73 followers
October 22, 2017
A collection of forty short texts describing different possible afterlives that gives you a few gems here and there, but also leaves a lot to be desired. The characters are completely anonymous - which is fine. This is simply a collection of thought experiments.

In one story we are atoms in Gods body, in another the dead are not allowed to rest until everyone alive have forgotten about them (Shakespeare must be pretty mad by now if this one turns out to be true). There are a lot of stories circling around the theme of a creator or deity not being perfect. Not being in absolute control, not being able to fix everything or make everybody happy. Or even being able to understand their own creations.

In one of the better ones, God's favorite book is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly's Frankenstein, because:

God considers Himself to be a medical doctor, a biologist without parallel, and He has a deep, painful relationship with any story about bringing animation to the unanimated. Very few of His creatures had thought deeply about the challenges of creation, and it relieved Him a little of the loneliness of his position when Mary wrote her book.

The stories try their best to twist and turn our ideas and expectations about life, afterlife and being human. Or being God. Usually there is a twist at the end that shows the downside or the unexpected results of some specific organization of life or afterlife.

In the beginning the inventiveness was great, but around the midway point I found my enthusiasm for this collection quickly plummeting. The further I read, the more I got the feeling that the book tried too hard to be clever and deep, and no longer succeeding, like in the first stories. It was also starting to become a bit too repetitive - to many variations on the same themes. I got the impression - like with so many short story collections, it seems - that the best stories were placed in the front of the book, to get you hooked, and then all the mediocre ones were doled out towards the middle and end. But let me add that the further I read, the less I dwelled on each story. The book might have benefited from me only reading one story a day.

So, the concept itself is great, and a few of the stories I really loved, but by the end, this was a bit of a disappointing read.
Profile Image for Joel.
556 reviews1,666 followers
May 26, 2010
Fitfully imaginative, often repetitive meditations on what might happen after we die that frequently get sidetracked into cute commentaries on how we live now. Which isn't unexpected, I suppose. But the most entertaining and thoughtful of these stories truly fulfill the promise of the premise; the others just didn't do much for me. Also, way too many of them involve variations on the idea that we are unknowingly cogs in some vast system, but this might not bug if I hadn't read the book in two sittings.

Maybe these are better spaced out, but I don't read that way. Sorry, book. I'd say around half of the stories did it for me, so I'm going with 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Lara Messersmith-Glavin.
Author 3 books69 followers
August 14, 2009
A charming little thought-experiment conducted by a writer of rich yet limited imagination. This book has received rave reviews in a number of journals over the past few months, and I was on a waiting list at the library for weeks before I had a chance to check it out myself.


Clearly influenced by the structured, dreamlike musings of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Sum: Fory Tales from the Afterlives dances neatly through a series of post-life possibilities. Some are clever, some are odd, but few manage to be more than a change of curtains on what is clearly a window into a Judeo-Christian background. There is always a God (capital G), always a mention of sinners and a "you guys get to go one place, and you all go over here." Unfortunately, this book is a missed opportunity for something a bit more mystical, creative, or even simply adventurous.

Eagleman's strongest moments are when he flows inward and touches some of the raw points of sadness we each carry in secret, and when he succumbs to a pantheistic vision that explores natural systems for their own intrinsic miracles.
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
672 reviews92 followers
April 24, 2021
A collection of forty short writings exploring different possible afterlives. Each piece is either narrated by an omnipresent voice or addressed to "you", the reader. It is very hard to summarize these thought experiments. Some have God or Gods, some don't. Some play with physics and computer tech, some with biology, others purely philosophical.

I enjoyed the entire collection. Here are some of my favs: Descent of Species, Mary, Scales ("we are a part of God's biology"), Adhesion, Microbe ("God is the size of a bacterium"), Search.


"And God consoles Himself with the thought that all creation necessarily ends in this: Creators, powerless, fleeing from the things they have wrought." - Mary

"Many of them embrace a suspicion that something extraordinary could happen if they could collaborate on a meaningful scale, but they find themselves continually stymied by the personalized nature of their goals." - Pantheon

"You can’t imagine the pleasure of stretching your redefined body across vast territories: ruffling your grasses and bending your pine branch and flexing an egret’s wings while pushing a crab toward the surface through coruscating shafts of light." - Search
Profile Image for Emma.
2,507 reviews855 followers
June 28, 2018
Interesting that on a reread and many years after first reading this, I have lowered my rating! It’s a quick read and thought provoking but I found the stories a little hit and miss. They were snippets of ideas. I wonder if my reading taste has changed- I used to be much more engaged with ideas of life after death, so it’s weird that as I get older and presumably closer to finding out the truth for myself, I’m less interested!
Profile Image for Phakin.
458 reviews155 followers
August 17, 2015
I read Thai version last night. A good translation and very thought-provoking. Recommended!
Profile Image for Tanya.
58 reviews118 followers
May 8, 2019
I was pleasantly surprised right after reading the first story itself. A really easy read yet so happening for the imaginative!

Sum is written by the neurologist, David Eagleman. In his mini tales from the afterlife melancholy is mixed with a peculiar sense of humor. He creates different backdrops for the stories and takes them as they would proceed in the Afterlife. One would expect a pleasant life definitely. But each of them is touching in their own way. It also turns out that not every conceivable vision of the afterlife is comforting.

I would without a doubt urge everyone to read this book so that each one of us could crib a little less over our hypothetical theories of ‘what could have been’s and ‘what would be’s.
Your present is the most real reality you would have ever perfectly lived. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This book made me ponder for a while and would be a constant reminder when my thoughts meander to their wonderland.

“...you are battered and bruised in the collisions between reminiscence and reality.”
Profile Image for Kalin.
Author 71 books267 followers
July 7, 2020
Caveat: Sum will bring no insight to those who seek visions of the afterworld--and no consolation either. ;) Instead, it may make us re-examine our very own lives, here and now. Perhaps avoid some of the blunders. Definitely laugh. At ourselves, most of the time.

Full review:

Profile Image for Aykut Kısa.
194 reviews12 followers
October 8, 2020
Bilim insanı olan taraf yazarlığının önüne geçmiş. Bazı hikayeleri keyifle okurken bazılarında ben basit bir marabayım böyle teknik ifadeler hiç hoş olmuyor ağam diye düşündüm durdum. Güzel bir fikir özgün fikirler ama beni aştı. (!)
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
June 19, 2018
Sum is a slim book, just 100 pages long, with 40 different views of what the afterlife might be like. Some of them feel too glib and flippant for me (though no doubt the same stories would make others smile), but there are some that are really inventive, bittersweet and clever, and some that just have really good lines. Like this one:

There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

Yow. That’s just true in a sad way: the only afterlife everyone can be sure of is when people speak of them once they’re gone. There’s definitely poignancy in the idea of waiting for that last time your name is spoken before you move on.

I found some of the stories a little too similar in tone or basic idea, but it’s still a creative collection.

Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 11 books166 followers
September 1, 2010
probably 3.5 actually. A fascinating book of short tales about possible afterlives, including one where all possible versions of you exist (quantum physics I think), another where God is so small he works on a microbal (?) level, and is simply unaware of us, a bi-product of bacteria. Or where the afterlife conforms to capitalist principles and for a reasoable price you can download your version of heaven. Or When you arrive in the afterlife, you find that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sits on a throne. This is because God's favourite book is Frankenstein - at last someone understands Him, what it is like to be a creator, albeit a crude one.

Funny, engaging, thought provoking. Read too many at once though and you might go cross eyed. Best read over a few days even though it's so short you could read it in an hour and a half.
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