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The Brief History of the Dead
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About the Author

In addition to his most recent work, A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip, KEVIN BROCKMEIER is the author of the novels The Illumination, The Brief History of the Dead, and The Truth About Celia; the story collections Things That Fall from the Sky and The View from the Seventh Layer; and the children's novels City of Names and Grooves: A Kind of Mystery. His work has been translated into seventeen languages. He has published his stories in such venues as The New Yorker, The Georgia Review, McSweeney's, Zoetrope, Tin House, The Oxford American, The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and New Stories from the South. He has recieved the Borders Original Voices Award, three O. Henry Awards (one, a first prize), the PEN USA Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Grant. In 2007, he was named one of Granta magazine's Best Young American Novelists He teaches frequently at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and he lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was raised.

Reviews

A deadly virus has spread rapidly across Earth, effectively cutting off wildlife specialist Laura Byrd at her crippled Antarctica research station from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, the planet's dead populate "the city," located on a surreal Earth-like alternate plane, but their afterlives depend on the memories of the living, such as Laura, back on home turf. Forced to cross the frozen tundra, Laura free-associates to keep herself alert; her random memories work to sustain a plethora of people in the city, including her best friend from childhood, a blind man she'd met in the street, her former journalism professor and her parents. Brockmeier (The Truth About Celia) follows all of them with sympathy, from their initial, bewildered arrival in the city to their attempts to construct new lives. He meditates throughout on memory's power and resilience, and gives vivid shape to the city, a place where a giraffe's spots might detach and hover about a street conversation among denizens. He simultaneously keeps the stakes of Laura's struggle high: as she fights for survival, her parents find a second chance for love-but only if Laura can keep them afloat. Other subplots are equally convincing and reflect on relationships in a beautiful, delicate manner; the book seems to say that, in a way, the virus has already arrived. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Inhabitants of the City eat at Jim's sandwich shop and read Luka Sims's mimeographed News & Speculation Sheet-never mind that they are all deceased. They've made the crossing-each person's is uniquely beautiful-and they don't know what happens next. People do disappear, and it is surmised that you remain in the City as long as you remain in the memory of someone left behind. Hence the concern when people start vanishing in droves; evidently, a horrendous virus called the blinks has hit Earth (perhaps with some help from the Coca-Cola Corporation). Marion and Philip Byrd remain in the City, however, as do others who recall their daughter, Laura; she's stuck alone at a research station in the Antarctic and eventually launches on an arduous trek back to a civilization she does not yet realize is virtually wiped out. Even more painful than watching her struggle is realizing that she's going back to nothing: what's the point if there is no one with whom to share? Beautifully written and brilliantly realized, this imaginative work from the author of The Truth About Celia delivers a startling sense of what it really means to be alive. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/05.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-In a not-so-distant future, a deadly virus kills off every human on Earth, except for Laura Byrd, a wildlife specialist on an expedition to the South Pole. Readers quickly learn that the dead move on to another life in a fantastic city on another plane of existence; there, they live out a second life free from aging and disease until every person who knew them on Earth dies. The chapters alternate between Laura and those in the city of the dead, often showing how these individuals connect to her. The elegiac, thoughtful tone of the writing is balanced by the survivor's adventure-filled travels across the frozen landscape as she hopelessly searches for signs of others. A crisis develops in the city as the only ones who remain finally realize that they continue to exist because Laura is still fighting for her life on Earth. Brockmeier's style-elements of fantasy mixed with a strong sense of character and a wonderful lyricism-will remind readers of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (Random, 2004). Although lacking some of the far-reaching depth of Mitchell's work, Brockmeier's haunting reminder of how connected people are to one another will appeal to readers of fantasy yearning for a bit more to think about than the usual fare offers.-Matthew L. Moffett, Ford's Theatre Society, Washington, DC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Thrilling. . . . Inventive. . . . Deftly told. . . . Brockmeier does a wonderful job of conjuring up the dead." -The Washington Post Book World "Brilliant. . . . Brockmeier's characters are wonderful, and his images are dazzling."-Detroit Free Press"Extraordinary. . . . Breathtaking. . . . A gracefully written story that blends fantasy, philosophical speculation, adventure and crystalline moments of compassion."-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel"Striking. . . . Brave. . . . Deliciously disquieting. . . . The Brief History of the Dead will stay alive in the memories of readers for years to come."-The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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