The Brief History of the Dead

Brockmeier, Kevin

Book - 2006
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Brief History of the Dead
"Remember me when I'm gone" just took on a whole new meaning. The City is inhabited by the recently departed, who reside there only as long as they remain in the memories of the living. Among the current residents of this afterlife are Luka Sims, who prints the only newspaper in the City, with news from the other side; Coleman Kinzler, a vagrant who speaks the cautionary words of God; and Marion and Phillip Byrd, who find themselves falling in love again after decades of marriage. On Earth, Laura Byrd is trapped by extreme weather in an Antarctic research station. She's alone and unable to contact the outside world: her radio is down and the power is failing. She's running out of supplies as quickly as she's running out of time. Kevin Brockmeier interweaves these two stories in a spellbinding tale of human connections across boundaries of all kinds.The Brief History of the Deadis the work of a remarkably gifted writer.

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2006
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0375423699
Characteristics: 252 p. ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

A haunting story about a woman at an Antarctic research station who, in spite of her solitude, slowly becomes aware that all is not well with the greater world.

The City is inhabited by the recently departed, who reside there only as long as they remain in the memories of the living. On Earth, Laura Byrd is trapped by extreme weather in an Antarctic research station. These two stories combine in a spellbinding tale of human connections across boundari... Read More »

The City is inhabited by the recently departed, who reside there only as long as they remain in the memories of the living.

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Nov 29, 2014
  • Persnickety77 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

great concept, poor execution. i feel that this book should have been amazing, but it was just okay; pretty but muddled.

Jan 28, 2014
  • waltzingechidna rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I can't add anything to what has been written below without giving too much away. I will say that this book is simply, delicately, and yet vividly written, and that it's compelling and devastating. It's not exactly science fiction, though it contains strong elements of SF. It's certainly speculative fiction. Metaphysical fiction, maybe?

If you need to know up front precisely what is happening and why, you'll probably want to avoid this book. If you can tolerate some ambiguity as you watch a world being built brushstroke by brushstroke, and being more and more shaken as you proceed, pick this one up.

Aug 10, 2013
  • JeremiahSutherland rated this: 0.5 stars out of 5.

A completely pointless book. It has an interesting premise; the world is being depopulated by a military virus and the dead exist in an alternate city as long as someone who remembers them is alive.

This is an example of an "auteur" who is more interested in plumbing the depths of his characters' psyche than writing an actual plot.

May 20, 2013

"In "the city," the afterlife inhabited by the recently dead (they remain there only as long as they are remembered by someone still alive), the transient population undergoes rapid change as a deadly virus decimates the living. Soon the city is nearly empty and only a handful remain - the parents, friends, acquaintances and former lovers of a woman named Laura, stranded in an Antarctic research station. In chapters alternating between Laura, struggling for survival, and those in the city as they attempt to build new lives, Kevin Brockmeier reflects on human relationships in a "beautiful, delicate manner" (Publishers Weekly)." May 2013 Fiction A to Z newsletter

Jul 14, 2012
  • Wodge rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I truly enjoyed this tale; the writing is lovely, clear, and crafted. The story itself unfolds in an unhurried but fascinating plot line. I was not bored. It reminded me, in his way, of the novel "Death of an Ordinary Man" by Glen Duncan.
Here's a story that explores the "afterlife" using the idea found in some non-Judeo-Christian belief systems. It gives a bit of a different perspective and one that is key to the plot.
The writing is unhurried even though the pacing is not. I found myself eager to keep reading and the calm, measured voice of the writer encouraged me along without raising my blood pressure the way a thriller might.
I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

Jul 27, 2011
  • cori_s rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Gorgeous writing, compelling and with a simple, but unique plot. I can't tell too much without giving it away, but it's simply amazing. If you like this, try Sum: Tales of the Afterlife.

Jul 19, 2011
  • KarenW rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Laura Byrd knew a lot of people and these people, when felled by a world wide virus, are glad that she did! They are all sent to a city before they can move on to the next place, whatever that will be. And since they only stay as long as Laura remembers them, then Laura must be the last surviving person on earth. What will happen to them when she goes? A thought provoking and truly unique look at life and death.

Feb 15, 2011
  • KimBaker rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

In “The City”, a metropolis inhabited by the recently departed, life continues much as it did when the residents were alive until a global viral epidemic on earth causes millions to disappear. The remaining people soon learn that they have one thing in common – they all exist in the memory of Laura Byrd, a Coca-Cola scientist who has been stranded by the epidemic during a research expedition in Antarctica. As Laura struggles to remain alive in a barren and inhospitable landscape, those who still exist in The City wonder how long they too will remain and what comes after death.

Jul 26, 2010
  • DianaR1959 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book reminds me very much of a cross between "Master and Margarita" and Albert Camus "The Plague". I love this quiet little tale of the afterlife. Where do we go and as long as there is a memory of us do we continue to exist. Bittersweet.


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