Read The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce Online


A love story that asks: what happens after we die? The debut novel from National Book Award 5 Under 35 Winner and author of the “ridiculously good” (New York Times) collection Hall of Small Mammals.Jim Byrd died. Technically. For a few minutes. The diagnosis: heart attack at age thirty. Revived with no memory of any tunnels, lights, or angels, Jim wonders what—if anything—A love story that asks: what happens after we die? The debut novel from National Book Award 5 Under 35 Winner and author of the “ridiculously good” (New York Times) collection Hall of Small Mammals.Jim Byrd died. Technically. For a few minutes. The diagnosis: heart attack at age thirty. Revived with no memory of any tunnels, lights, or angels, Jim wonders what—if anything—awaits us on the other side.Then a ghost shows up. Maybe. Jim and his new wife, Annie, find themselves tangling with holograms, psychics, messages from the beyond, and a machine that connects the living and the dead. As Jim and Annie journey through history and fumble through faith, they confront the specter of loss that looms for anyone who dares to fall in love. Funny, fiercely original, and gracefully moving, The Afterlives will haunt you. In a good way....

Title : The Afterlives
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781594632532
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Afterlives Reviews

  • Jessica Sullivan
    2018-11-08 10:44

    Following a near-death experience during which he technically died for several minutes, 33-year-old Jim Byrd becomes hyper-aware of his own mortality. Death seems to be everywhere. There's a ghost haunting a restaurant owned by one of his clients. He even lives in a retirement town where "old people come to die."Consumed by his uncertainty about what happens in the afterlife (and convinced from his own experience that the answer is nothing) Jim and his wife Annie search for proof. They learn about an elusive physicist named Sally Zinker who believes that human beings only 93% exist in this world and has supposedly created a machine that allows the living to connect with the dead. But will they find the answers they so desperately want, or merely end up more uncertain than ever?The Afterlives is a smart, funny and imaginative work of speculative fiction written for those of us who battle the existential dread of knowing that one day we and everyone we love will die—those of us who don't have the comfort of a firm belief in any sort of afterlife.The technology and science-fiction aspects of this book are intriguing and thoughtful, and the parts about marriage and love are insightful and relatable. Pierce took on an ambitious topic and handled it with deftness and heart. If you're the type of person who likes to think about the big questions in life, I think you'll find this a satisfying read.

  • Blair
    2018-11-18 04:34

    This is a peculiar book, and I liked it but I'm not quite sure what to make of it. From the start I found the narrator offputting, but whenever I thought I might as well give up, something hooked me and pulled me back in – a story about a ghost on a staircase that's titled 'The Tale of the Dog on Fire'; an organisation called 'the Church of Search' which has holograms giving inspirational talks; historical chapters that move back and forth through a character's life as though time is not linear but a picture book to be flipped through. The Afterlives is set in the not-too-distant future, hence the holograms and the app Jim Byrd uses to monitor his heart after a brief 'death' from cardiac arrest. In the aftermath of this incident, Jim reconnects with his high school girlfriend, starts attending church and develops a preoccupation with a local ghost story. A restaurant in Jim's hometown – specifically, a particular spot on its staircase – is home to a number of unexplained phenomena, which he learns about when he visits in his capacity as a loan assessor. (An anomaly in the restaurant's accounts turns out to be the owner trying to exorcise the ghost, or ghosts.)The occasional historical chapters tell the story of the building's former residents/possible phantoms, Clara and Robert Lennox, and their families. Surprisingly, these are among the best parts of the book. Pierce uses a brilliantly effective structure here, moving swiftly and non-chronologically through the characters' histories but making us aware, via the subjects' apparent awareness of their timeline-jumping, that these are perhaps more than memories (a nod to the book's title). He also teases out unexpected connections between the historical and contemporary characters in so subtle a style that I didn't see them coming – yet they made perfect sense.Unfortunately, there's this whole dull plot strand about Jim's relationship. This is a personal quibble I have with lots of fiction, but in this case it's exacerbated by the characterisation. Annie, Jim's girlfriend (later wife), is given about as much personality as a blank sheet of paper. We know Jim is attracted to/has feelings for her, she's a widow, and she has a daughter – who is for some reason named 'Fisher' – and that's about it. We are told facts about her, but rarely, if ever, do they seem to fit together and constitute a believable person. (Jim, meanwhile, isn't especially likeable, but he's fleshed out enough that I did feel emotionally invested in what happened to him by the time it... happened.)This is a novel of the fantastic – from ghostly presences to futuristic tech – yet it's grounded in the banal, creating an oddly folksy strain of science fiction. Critics' reviews of The Afterlives tend to make it sound like it has a solid plot, suggesting Jim goes on some kind of quest for hope or meaning, but when you're reading it, it feels more like a meandering meditation on mortality (alliteration unintentional, but quite fitting).I received an advance review copy of The Afterlives from the publisher through Edelweiss.TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

  • Ron Charles
    2018-11-21 09:45

    Thomas Pierce approaches the interplay of technology and immortality with considerable subtlety in his debut novel, "The Afterlives." The story opens as 33-year-old Jim Byrd is revived from sudden cardiac arrest. He is happy to be back but dismayed that during the minutes he was technically dead he “saw nothing. No light, no tunnels, no angels.” That would seem to snuff out prospects for the great beyond. Yet Jim, a loan officer, ends up approving the mortgage for an old building that may be haunted. Pierce, one of the National Book Foundation’s recent 5 Under 35 Award winners, wanders wherever the spirit moves him, which may frustrate readers looking for drama, but I was enchanted by his thoughtful ruminations and wry comments about church and spirituality. Intercalary chapters about the haunted house’s original residents vibrate with ectoplastic energy. Pierce is particularly unsettling when he describes. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:

  • Art
    2018-10-31 07:49

    I work in an independent book shop and we have countless ARCs at our disposal. I'm always looking for an interesting read by an author I have never heard of. I found a little gem in this one. This is a quiet, but very engaging, story with likable and believable characters. There is also a ghost story within the story that stands on its own. After a near death experience, the main character becomes obsessed with the afterlife and what it may hold for all of us. It's a very thought provoking book. I'll keep Thomas Pierce on my radar.

  • Tyler Goodson
    2018-10-25 07:01

    Jim's new life begins when he almost dies, a life in which he finds love, hears a ghost, meets a psychic, and tries to find out what happens after we die. His journey leads him through life, death, and in between, but for Jim, the questions keep coming. What does it mean to lose? Or to move on after loss? Pierce has written a brilliantly imaginative and beautiful novel about the big, impossible questions, fear of the unknown, and the people who keep us from spiraling into the darkness.

  • Jaclyn Crupi
    2018-11-19 04:34

    Pierce is not afraid to confront the big questions about life, death and the thereafter in THE AFTERLIVES. His exploration of mortality and technology was particularly interesting (holograms are terrifying). How do we live when we know we will die, everyone we love will die, everyone who loves us will die? How? It’s unbearable and yet we face it each and every day. This book is definitely for those of us who spend a lot of time thinking these thoughts. I loved it.

  • Amber (JewellReads)
    2018-10-27 05:00

    I finished this the other day and I have mixed feelings about it. The premise was good. I was super interested in this book the first 3 parts of the book and then I found myself falling asleep while reading. Not highlighting or tabbing anymore. I became a bit bored in the last 2 parts. This story follows a man named Jim who dies for a bit after having a heart attack. Once surviving he was mad because he didn’t see like a light or angels while he was out. He has to have like a “pacemaker” type thing that tracks his heart beat called HeartNet and he also uses a app. Throughout the story Jim and his wife Annie tries to understand the mystery of this ghost story. A old house turned restaurant has a stairwell where weird things were happening to people. And they believed the house/restaurant was haunted. I enjoyed the writing of this book & there was a bit of humor throughout but the talk about Afterlives and angel,God and all that sort of dragged on for a bit in some parts (even though I know that’s the point of the book) the mc is questioning all that and what happens once we die. This is my first read by this author. I found this book in a thrift store for $1. I didn’t know it was a arc until I got home so that’s cool. This book comes out on January 9th so thank you to the person who donated the book to the thrift store because i was able to read this early 😂

  • Jonathan
    2018-11-20 08:31

    I wish this book had been a little less Straight White Dude in its perspective. The writing is great, especially in how genuinely it earns its emotional payoffs, but at the end of the day what I couldn't shake off was the disappointment in how obvious and boring the narrator's problems were. He's another white dude concerned with mortality but only in a philosophical sense, which speaks to his relative safety and comfort living in the world. I'm not calling for the book to be written from a marginalized perspective, to be a blistering account of sexism or racism, because I know not every book can tackle every problem in the world, but I don't think it's too much to ask for a little more consideration re: intersectionality in fiction.For me, the text lacked a propulsive energy because the issues at hand felt so mundane, though it does certainly ratchet up the intrigue in the last fourth. I wish that drive had been consistent.I was offered an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review through Edelweiss.3/5

  • Jovy
    2018-11-14 05:39

    I really wanted to like this book. I read the synopsis and was so excited when I finally got my hands on it! However, this book ended up putting me to sleep. I couldn't get into it at all. I enjoyed the main character's thoughts but unfortunately none of it was memorable. It also doesn't help that the book is divided five parts with no chapters within each section to help you digest the story easier.

  • Myles
    2018-11-05 10:40

    Jim Byrd died of heart failure. He was revived in time and being a young man suffered no lasting damage. After the installation of a new device to monitor his heart he makes a full recovery. What gnaws at him is the fact that he has no memories of his experience. He saw no light at the end of the tunnel and he realizes he needs to know what, if anything, happens after death. Following a whim he comes into contact with a haunted house and, coincidentally, an old girlfriend. Him, his father, and his girlfriend are all pulled into the mystery of this house and the larger question of life after death. Religion, technology, philosophy, love and fear intersect in The Afterlives as we follow Jim's quest for understanding. The stories of those who lived in and visited the haunted house periodically break up the story and deepen the mystery.Thomas Pierce's writing was a pleasure to read. He tackles enormous issues with respect and genuine insight. His characters often deliver their lines and thoughts with a wry sense of humor. Once I picked the book up, I could hardly put it down. I haven't read anything like it in a long time.

  • Sarah Tittle
    2018-11-19 05:45

    3.5 stars. I like what Pierce is doing here--exploring how technology has changed the way we think about death, or at least the way we think about what happens after we die. I like the fact that the main character is an average-Joe-type person, and I like the setting (maybe only because that part of the world is familiar to me). But after a big warm up, I grew increasingly disappointed with this story. Maybe it's the hologram twist and the way it lends a vague sci-fi tone that really turned me off. Every time the "grammers" show up I'm sort of, ewww, just stop. But points to Pierce for making this futuristic aspect of the novel feel pretty commonplace. I have to say, I'm a little obsessed with what happens to us after we die. I don't understand why we don't know the answer to this, and I feel like we should. But the fact that this one important question is still completely unanswered, after all the technological/scientific advances we have made, is sort of the answer itself. We don't know because we either can't comprehend it, or there's just nothing, or it's so horrible no one wants to tell us. Or maybe it's wonderful and no one wants to tell us because then we'd all just kill ourselves. At any rate, my own philosophical musings aside, I appreciate an author trying to tackle this subject. But this novel just didn't land for me. At times it lagged, at other times I felt that the characters were a little too bland. And the ending felt a bit like a cop-out.

  • Uriel Perez
    2018-11-17 04:54

    A tender and often comical telling of one man's quest to discover the existence and depths of the afterlife — a journey that takes Jim Byrd to New Age churches, into an investigation of a haunted staircase, and in pursuit of a physicist who may or may not have constructed a machine with the ability to bring us in contact with the deceased. Thomas Pierce's first novel is layered with heart, humor and tremendous revelations concerning our technology-ridden lives.

  • Katherine Moore
    2018-11-14 06:50

    This book almost defies description and I'm still basically 'speechless' upon finishing. Yes, I can say it's a fictional novel (unless author Pierce knows things we don't!), but then I can tell you all the different genres and subjects it touches: fantasy, the supernatural/ghosts, sci-fi and aliens, relationships, religion and the question of God, conspiracy theories, and the biggest question of all - what happens to us all when we die.The novel begins when Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes, but he is left with no experience of seeing an 'afterlife', ie, no 'tunnels with lights'. This leaves him with huge life questions and starts seeing the world in a whole new way, along with his new 'HeartNet' to keep his ticker beating safely. The world in which this novel is set in, is even filled with holograms, and so many questions for Jim, and consequently for the reader. I didn't read this as quickly as some books because of that, and I was often putting it down to digest and think about what I'd just read because of everything I just had to absorb. There's actually a lot of humor in the novel too, so even though there are huge topics on the table like life and death, the tone of the book remains light, even when big events happen. Originally I was put off by the fact that Jim's romance and subsequent relationship with his wife Annie, would be central to the novel, but it ended up being such an original journey that they were on, that I was absorbed by their story within the bigger story.This is such a unique and intelligent novel, one that will get your brain thinking and your heart thumping. I know I won't read another quite like this in 2018, and it's got to be read to be fully appreciated. Fabulous.

  • Abby
    2018-11-16 09:47

    Thomas Pierce brings all the components of a good story to the table: humor, empathy, and ingenuity. I lapped up this creative and touching novel, flying through it as I was flying home over the Pacific Ocean. Jim and Annie build a life together and wander through a future that does not feel too far away from us now. I'll be thinking about them and the elements of their story for days and weeks to come. The future of American fiction, honestly, feels brighter to me, knowing that it is buoyed by writers like Thomas Pierce.

  • Melissa Rochelle
    2018-11-10 07:59

    This novel defies description. It's a ghost story. It's futuristic. It's a love story. It's science fiction. It’s a mix of all of that and somehow comes together into a cohesive story that I really enjoyed.

  • Elaine
    2018-11-11 04:37

    The Afterlives has a quirky, off-beat premise that caught my attention when I read the synopsis. Unfortunately, the premise was the most interesting thing about it.After a near death experience, thirty-three year old Jim Byrd embarks on a quest to find the meaning of life. Is there an afterlife? Do we live on after death? Does it matter?These deep, existential questions fall flat when we meet Jim Byrd, a boring, dull, bland white male who lacks wit, talent or any discernible quality that makes him interesting. He pretty much coasts through life working a meaningless job and meets an old girlfriend at a restaurant. Eventually, they marry.Interspersed with Jim's recounts of his daily routine are vignettes of a couple from over fifty years ago that experienced a traumatic event in a home that was later converted into the restaurant Jim will later visit in the future as part of his duties as a loan officer at a bank. This couple's unhappy marriage has permeated the core and structure of this building and infused it with a supernatural quality that continues to affect residents or anyone who comes in contact with this building.When I picked The Afterlives up from the library, I noticed it was categorized as romance but that doesn't feel right.Just because Jim pontificates about his wife and marriage and their quest on searching for the existence of an afterlife does not make this a love story. In my opinion, this story is more about the subject of love; the love that comes from the connections we make with our family, our friends, our colleagues, people we respect and admire, not the romanticized and/or sexual love we feel for a partner.The problem with this book is that it meanders. I'm not sure what its trying to say. The writing is good but wasted here on various story threads that lack cohesiveness.If the author had focused on the supernatural quality of the building and what it may mean for the existence of an afterlife, the story would have been more grounded.Instead, we get side stories about this unhappy couple alongside Jim's unimaginative outlook on life despite his near death experience. As their marriage progresses, science and technology develop at a rapid pace, so much so that it is difficult to differentiate between reality and surreality. When Jim and his wife meet a female scientist who has devoted her life and career to proving the existence of an afterlife, they are both confronted with personal issues from the past; Jim and the loss of his father, his wife's loss of her first husband, and what it means to go on after we lose the ones we love and care about.This book had such a fascinating idea but it was bogged down with a weak main character and too many tangents about minor characters I did not care for nor could I understand why we were given these small histories about them in the first place. Seeking answers to the meaning of life and why we are here in this world is a fundamental part of living, of growing, of evolving and of the way we process our own mortality. But as I read on, it felt like the author was unsure of where to go with his story. Is it about ghosts?Is it about marriage? Family? Death?Or is it about none of this?People die, we die and life goes on?The lack of a strong narrative focus created confusion on how I should approach the book as I read it. I was hoping this book was about ghosts and the supernatural but it ended up as a boring recap of characters I neither liked nor identified interspersed with brief reflections about life, living and marriage.I really enjoyed Mr. Pierce's writing. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for how I felt after reading The Afterlives.

  • Tracie Gutknecht
    2018-11-01 07:48

    First off, I think the cover is stupid. There is a thing about the dog in the book, but like the book, it doesn't really convey the message of the story.Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes and remembers absolutely nothing, no white lights, no dead family members visiting, nothing but blank/blackness. He is given a heartnet which keeps his heart beating and is a replacement to a pacemaker, but with a battery life of 200 years. Thus, conceivably his heart could continue to beat even after he is dead. Quirky, right?Jim is an average guy, except for this heart anomaly. He approves bank loans. He comes across an unusual charge in a loan application that peaks his interest. He visits the restaurant in question, meets the owner, runs into a former girlfriend, hears about a weird experience and it sends him on a research hunt for the former owners.Ultimately, I feel like this book fails it's grand undertaking. To quote from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure--time is like a burrito. The story hops around between the past and the present and the authors point is that our lives are still taking place and each moment is being relived again and again and that if we can reduce or subvert our consciousness we should be able to relive those experiences with those people just like the first time.I'm giving the book 3 stars, because it does make you think, the story is different, I'll probably remember it years from now, but I don't know that I enjoyed it.

  • Nick
    2018-11-17 04:44

    What is next for us after death? The Afterlives' Jim Byrd, struggles with this question after suffering a heart attack, and dying at the age of 33. Given a second chance by advances in technology and medicine, Byrd sets out to find answers, all while living a more meaningful life.In The Afterlives, Thomas Pierce creates a world filled with ghosts, holograms, and old folks. A world abandoning the older generations, and flirting with the future. These changes are monumental, for better or worse. With life saving heart monitors, and holograms, Pierce is not afraid to dabble in science fiction. He's also not afraid to dabble in the consequences of such technology. The heart monitor hack stories were fascinating, and could easily spin-off into another novel.In questioning death, no one ever really has all the answers. Bryd's realizations by the end of the book leave you hopeful for the future, even if we all know how it will eventually end.

  • Alex
    2018-10-28 07:39

    Jim is in his 30s when he has a cardiac arrest and is dead for several minutes before being revived. He doesn't see a bright light, snapshots of his life don't cascade before him, he isn't beckoned forward by loved ones who've passed on. He is disturbed by this lack, and this leads him to an emotional journey about what death is, what life is, what consciousness and the soul might be. He meets a woman and marries her. His father dies. He reads a book by a scientist who says she is on the cusp of being able to communicate with “ghosts.”This is a beautiful novel that shares the compelling theme (of how time is not linear) with the beautiful story by Ted Chiang called “Story of your life,” which I also cannot recommend highly enough.

  • Olivia
    2018-11-21 11:56

    This was a surprisingly clever book that used the rapid development of technology to explore big subjects: the meaning of life, ghosts, the afterlife, religion. In this story, technology that already exists in our world evolves. Sometimes dangerous, always disruptive to the social order. It was amazing to me just how well Pierce engages with these questions through the story of Jim and Annie. It was quirky and well written. My one critique would be the formulaic nature of the historical portions at the end of each section, I didn't feel as though they added to the story. For me, this book was a bit like the only Black Mirror episode I've watched: San Junipero. Unsettling, challenging, but also hopeful.

  • Cletus Van
    2018-10-23 07:55

    This booked echoed many thoughts I've had in my life. I absolutely loved The Afterlives, I didn't want the story to end. It was poetic, insightful, funny, generous, and a little futuristic. Full of faith and doubt and complex characters. It left me reminiscing about vignettes in my life for days on end.

  • Cristine Mcguire
    2018-11-09 11:39

    great read, i have been waiting a long time to come across a book like this, that has captived me, and made me get pulled into their world and felt what the characters felt.

  • Onceinabluemoon
    2018-11-22 07:32

    A different book with unique ideas, read until I got scared of the dead dog, picked up the audio next day and it was scary good, glad i had stopped, the staticky audio would have haunted me in the middle of the night. Sounds like hologram hell is in our futures too!

  • Ali
    2018-10-23 11:01

    A very interesting premise followed by a strong build-up towards what I'd call a lackluster pay-off in the end. I read Pierce's debut story collection last year and loved his voice. However, I couldn't find it in this book which comes off overly edited to my liking. Writing feels stiff, the dialogues are somewhat contrived with obvious authorial injections about the state of the world. The voice is just not there.

  • Andrienne
    2018-10-22 05:42

    Holograms, marriage, ghosts and death figure prominently in this well-thought of story. Great flow of writing and feels a bit literary sci-fi to me. Fans of All Our Wrong Today's by Mastai will find lots to like here.Review copy provided by the publisher

  • MollyK
    2018-11-09 06:33

    Goodreads winner *** Uncorrected ARCSo, I love a good mash up in a novel. I have won and read 3 phenomenal ones this year. I have been thinking of them as my 2017 Ghost Story Tryptic. The first was The Next by Stephanie Gangi. Then A Guide for Murdered Children by Sarah Sparrow. Now I have The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce.It’s so fun to win books from author’s you never heard of and delve into a story with little or no expectation. But for a while this book felt disjointed, like the author didn’t know where he wanted to go. Write a ghost story? No. It’s historical fiction. No maybe si-fi? Then midway through everything began to coalesce. The book becomes this wonderful gem. It is so thought provoking. Its complex and you get all the feels. In the end, I felt like the book was a very human story.

  • Will
    2018-11-21 06:53

    "The Afterlives" is a very good blend of metaphysical, spooky, and fun. Its author, Thomas Pierce, simply relates somewhat complex theories on death and existence, all the while moving two fairly entertaining, interwoven plots forward. It's an impressive feat, and an enjoyable read. The novel's protagonist, Jim Byrd, is a 30-something year-old man, who has recently suffered a near-death experience (or, more accurately, an experience where he was, very briefly, clinically dead). A vaguely religious person, Byrd is both terrified by the emptiness he experiences during his brief death, and anxious about his mortality. Despite his fears, he moves forward in life—he meets an old beau, Annie, whom he marries; he continues in his job as a bank loan officer; and he starts attending a new, technology-focused Christian church, "the Church of Search." All the while though, Jim continues to search for answers about death and existence; whether existence extends beyond life, whether life itself is an incomplete existence, etc. Randomly, during his investigation of a local Mexican restaurant for a loan, he discovers potential signs of an afterlife—or, at least, of a confined area (a staircase) where the building's deceased resident seems to maintain some sort of flickering existence. Jim, Annie, and his father sporadically pursue the mystery further, and are eventually drawn to Dr. Sally Zinker and the "Reunion Machine," a device that purports to decrease individuals' level of existence (measured by percentage) and, in doing so, put them in contact with the deceased (who exist on a plane of lesser, but not null, existence). Jim finds answers to his questions, but he finds that his answers only raise more questions: "An echo in search of other echoes. You do not end here, on this planet, but then again, neither does the questioning. Neither does the doubt. The search for meaning, as unbearable as it sounds, might not end with our death." (351) "The Afterlives" not only conveys metaphysical ideas in a simple, compelling plot; its ideas themselves are intriguing. Dr. Zinker's "daisy theory" of existence—that existence consists of many different levels of existence, stretching infinitely out in time and space, and that the brain merely focuses this existence for us for a brief period—seemed at once familiar, reassuring, and a little scary to me. I'm not sure whether Pierce developed this idea on his own, or poached it from another writer; regardless, I found it very compelling. His descriptions of it reminded me of Robert Coover's short story, "Going for a Beer"—of existence consisting of quick glimpses of time that flicker forward and backward, and return to certain precise moments, like a strangely focused dream. There were a few things I didn't like in this book. I felt like the hologram subplot was unnecessary—the novel already succeeds in questioning existence as a binary thing, and—through the Church of Search—touches on the interaction of religion/metaphysics and technology; I didn't feel like the holograms really added anything, except a little futuristic flourish. That said, I did enjoy the scene of Jim watching a hologram of his father dancing (p. 180), shortly after his death. I also found the book to be weirdly resentful of older people ("White Hairs"): "“They were shocked, these poor White Hairs, concerned, angry. Death, for them, was something that occurred in hospice beds, behind closed doors, their bodies full of tubes, not on the street, not in plain view.” (78). I'm not sure what Pierce's beef with older people is, but his writing on them came off as strangely resentful, and not humorous. Finally, the novel seemed a little over-written in parts; e.g., "Gentle acts of violence. Violent acts of gentleness." (137–38). All that said, there's a lot in this book to like (I particularly liked the constantly looming threat of a hacker exploding Jim's HeartNet heart), and Pierce's interests seem to significantly overlap with my own. I'll be very excited to read whatever he writes next.

  • Charlie Smith
    2018-11-18 09:43

    Jim Byrd, 33, died --- technically --- having collapsed in a parking garage from a heart attack. Once revived, he is disappointed to have seen nothing while deceased; no tunnel with its bright light calling him, or deceased relatives to guide him, or any hint of any afterlife at all.Which leaves him with just life. Real life. And a device called HeartNet embedded in his chest which sends to his phone warnings and notice when his heartbeat is off, and when his rhythms have been corrected by the HeartNet.He returns to the daily-ness of life in which he is a bank officer who okays a loan for a restaurant which might just have inside it a haunted staircase. This possible supernatural rift in reality, like his lack of after-death experiences, possesses Jim with a need to see and know more, to be able to parse the cosmic mystery of ways of being. And not. To turn might and might not into is or is not. It is telling --- and perhaps a little too twee --- that Jim becomes involved with The Church of Search.Jim and his wife, Annie, eventually hunt down a researcher, Sally Zinker, who they first encounter giving a homily at The Church of Search as a hologram --- by which the world in this novel is increasingly and often undetectably populated --- and who claims to have invented something called The Reunion Machine, a near-magical contraption allowing communion with the dead and direct experience with the plasticity of time.As we experience Jim's story, we are doing our own time-traveling-communion with the dead, being given bits and pieces of the lives of those who died decades ago who may or may not be the specters haunting the staircase.Jim sometimes doubts whether he survived the cardiac event, wondering if he is hallucinating his life experiences, how real are they? How real is he? What, in fact, is real? And more, what does it matter what is or is not real outside of one's own mind?This is a novel which explores existential doubt and the perplexing, confounding mystery of being alive without becoming heavy-handed or dime-store philosophical. It moves quickly, the writing is lovely, competent and often funny, and even more often insightful without pounding home points; it's subtle and wise in the ways it asks questions without then pronouncing facile answers.I liked it but I didn't love it, by which I am confused, because it seems I should have. Here's the thing, I did not love the characters, any of them, and Jim, in particular, in his confusion and self-interest, is a little off-putting --- which is on me, because I think I over-identified with his confusion and self-interest and it made me uncomfortable to have to think, "Oh, is my navel gazing this annoying?" Too, I finished this book on February 6, and by the time I started writing this, five days later, I had to pick up the book and re-read parts to remember what it was about. So, bottom line, I liked it, but it didn't etch itself into me in the way four-star books do. Which is fine. And about me, not it.

  • Ian Mond
    2018-11-10 05:58

    I initially compared The Afterlives to Black Mirror because of its near future setting but it’s nothing like that. For one, the novel isn’t as plot-driven as your regular Black Mirror episode and for two, it’s certainly no-where near as miserable or dark. Yes, The Afterlives deals intimately with death but only by focusing on the mundane activity of life. Jim begins the novel having been dead for five minutes, a shocking, awful experience, but rather than angst about it, he gets on with living. That’s what I enjoyed about this book, it’s a novel about the daily grind and the daily joys of being alive as evidenced by Jim’s relationship with Annie.I’m not sure I’ve read a more mature, more adult take on two people in love without one of them suddenly dropping dead or turning out to have a deep, dark secret. It says something about the current state of literature (and TV) that I spent most of the novel waiting for Annie to die (the story is Jim’s first-person account so I doubted he was going to kick the bucket). But that’s not what happens. I mean clearly Annie, and Jim, will die and a significant chunk of the novel is devoted to that very subject, i.e. what happens when someone does shuck the mortal coil, but thankfully this isn’t a book where Jim spends half the plot mourning his wife’s abrupt demise. Rather Pierce kills off Jim’s father instead (Annie’s first husband also dies but that happens years before she and Jim meet) and while the death of a father is no small thing, I appreciated that Pierce made this narrative choice rather than kill Annie.The relationship between Jim and Annie is the highlight of the novel but the book does have its issues. The story constantly feels like it lives in a halfway house between satire and profundity. The introduction of hologram technology does play into the novel’s ontological themes about what’s real and what’s not, but with talk of dead celebrities (and Jesus) being reincarnated into holograms and with them existing at the periphery of the story (a hologram works at Jim’s bank but she’s only referred to once or twice) they often feel like a disposable gag than a part of the world-building.I could also quibble that the book is too long, that the interludes involving Robert Lennox, his wife Clara Hopstead and Robert’s brother Wendell (a sort of love triangle set in Shula in the 30s which ends tragically) felt redundant. I get the interludes are (a) meant to explain the haunted staircase that features earlier in the novel and (b) also highlight Pierce’s theories about time but, frankly, I was a little bored. Even if there’s not enough information in the main narrative to figure out what precisely happened between Clara, Robert and Wendell, I can’t say I was desperate to know more. That’s not to say these sections aren’t well written, in fact, the one from the perspective of Clara’s younger sister, May, is beautiful, but I’d argue the novel would have worked without these interludes. Pierce is far more successful with the more profound aspects of the novel, especially around what happens after death. All the theorising in regard to daisy holes – subatomic particles that flicker in and out of existence – and this notion, that Aquinas would have been proud of, that past, present and future exist in one eternal moment is handled with a great deal of intelligence and sensitivity. The last third of The Afterlives – which I won’t spoil – is very emotional and effective in bringing home these concepts, in providing a brief glimpse at what may exist after death.In the end, for me, this was all about Jim and Annie and in that sense, this story tells the most simple, gentle and authentic of love stories, one wrapped up in the metaphysics of life, death and the afterlife, but one that’s also endearing, optimistic and life-affirming.

  • Mieke Mcbride
    2018-11-21 03:52

    I've got to say-- I really enjoyed this book. I found the main character a little annoying, the philosophy inherent in the book pretty hooky, and spent the whole book thinking, "um, so I guess there's no plot?" But even with all of that (which I admit, doesn't read like a ringing endorsement), this book was very enjoyable and hard to put down. It's set in the not-so-distant future, and much of the book deals with how subtle advancements in technology and science have shifted how we grapple with death, God, and identity. For example, throughout the book, holograms ("grammers") slowly become a part of the landscape, as advertisements, tutors, and even-- by the end-- home health care aides. This isn't a menacing turn of events; just a slightly annoying but completely inevitable development in society. As technology grows, people's search for meaning and rejection of traditional development also continues, leading to basically a Church of the Ted Talks (not what it's called but 100% what it is). Every week, a different canned talk (delivered by hologram), designed to make the congregation think deeply about metaphysical topics. Within all of this is the protagonist who once died, well clinically anyway, but is bothered that he saw no great bright light or pearly gates, just nothing. And soon after, he (maybe) finds evidence of a ghost who said (of all things) "the dogs on fire." For a book without a plot, the story marches on, and as I said at the beginning, I enjoyed it. Like Postmortal that I read at the end of last year-- and like any Black Mirror episode or good sci fi-- the book's strength is in the thoughts it provoked. (Side note: author did graduate from UVA #wahoowa)