Where do we go when we die?
How often do we stop and think about this question in our busy lives?
This is a question that is grappled with in the new book Afterlife written by bestselling author Marcus Sakey.
Sakey lives in Chicago and he sprinkles our city throughout his fantasy thriller that touches on terrorism, love, evil vs. good, sacrifice, and of course, the afterlife – as he sees it.
His reviews are powerful – “Imagine the love story in the film Ghost dropped into The Matrix,” and “Truly incredible. An epic, original vision. My brain is still bent.”
So expectations were high before I started to read this nearly 300-page novel.
Afterlife is a roller coaster, and your mind bends throughout as it ricochets between different scenes, time periods in history, and in and out of life and death.
The book begins on a ship in which Edmund is a particularly nasty human creature who resorts to cannibalism in order to survive months at sea in the Middle Ages. Then suddenly we are catapulted to today where FBI Agent Will Brody is racing against time to find a sniper terrorist who has killed 17 people in Chicago. There is an explosion yet he wakes without a scratch. ‘The building is in ruins. His team is gone. Outside, Chicago is dark. Cars lie abandoned.
No planes cross the sky. He’s relieved to spot other people – until he sees they’re carrying machetes.’
Welcome to the afterlife.
There is a love story – this book has been optioned by Hollywood to be made into a film – and it is between two agents, Claire McCoy, who was Will’s boss and head of an FBI task force, and Will Brody.
Will’s death, actually, is just the beginning. Like the film Ghost, the deep love between two people transcends this world.
But what is death – where do we go. Sakey envisions echoes and layers, where death is followed by another near-life experience. This one that Will and Claire find themselves in is one filled with people who were suddenly and unexpectedly cut down in the prime of their life. Young, vibrant, beautiful – only a moment ago, and now just a memory.
It certainly makes you think about this. What happens to us after death? Where does a little child go when he or she had a full life to live?
But that’s not all. The author has us contemplate the theme good vs. evil – where somebody like Will Brody is good because he sacrificed his life to help someone else (that was how he died). And then there are the ‘eaters’ – the evil ones who kill for no apparent reason at all. That includes the terrorist who killed all those innocent people, including a child and Will and Claire – the stars of the story. Why do they do it? Where do they go?
These are very big questions. This novel makes you think about it. Plenty of books have been written on this topic – from philosophical wonderings to religious and spiritual tracts.
Afterlife is a simple fantasy thriller mixed with big questions about life.
But it is a strange concoction. I told the author you can tell he had a lot of fun writing it. And we the reader have a hell of a time reading it.
Afterlife touches on many deep themes, and it keeps you on your toes, but I think the reader is biting off more than he can chew. It’s fun, at times, and the ending is certainly a thriller for Hollywood and Ron Howard to recreate on screen, but there is overload.
Perhaps I’m more used to books that stick to one topic. This is a thriller, a fantasy, wrapped in a love story, an epic battle in the afterlife, with questions about the meaning of life and the afterlife thrown in. That is a lot to take on.
It is not a great work of art. It is fun, it is fantasy, and it is thrilling.
And it could be your cup of tea, but not mine.
By Jim Vail