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Very clever novel by Kevin Brockmeier, this slightly comforting story is split into two parts. We follow the inhabitants of 'the city' a place people go when they die and also the story of a young traveller named Laura Byrd we quickly see these two woven together as we discover just how much Laura is impacting on the city and its inhabitants. Its a good novel but the conclusion leaves you wanting more.........
Detailed Review:: *SLIGHT PLOT SPOILERS*
When I first started reading this book i felt warmly humbled at the thought of a city where the departed live on in the memories of the living. But this soon changes when the inhabitants start disappearing, fading away until only a few remain. Its when the chapters are woven in with the story of Laura Byrd that you fully understand how her existance is keeping the town alive.
Brockmeier has a very good writing style you are kept very engrossed in the book even though the only main character is Laura, and she only accounts for half the book. Brockmeier manages to make a lot of minor characters interesting and you feel you know a lot about them when really you know very little.
The major frustration with this book was various plotlines which seemed to dwindle out, the book was relatively short, under 300 pages. It could have been a lot longer, there was plenty of opportunity to develop the story more but it felt somewhat rushed, you almost wanted to say "no,no stop I want to know more about this lady and her past" and so I somewhat felt unsatisfied at the end. It wasn't really a cliffhanger as such but it didn't bring a proper close to the book.
On the whole I recommed reading this book, being relatively short it doesn't take too long to read. As I said earlier there is something very comforting surrounding the idea of 'the city' a place where the dead are kept alive on memories.
I don't normally like books which flick between storylines, The Enchantress of Florence springs to mind here, but it is very cleverly done in this book. Brockmeier makes the story flow very easily, it helps that Laura's story reflects so much on the story of the people in the city.
As I have had to return it to the library my review can't be much longer I am afraid! Sorry about that!
I say give it a go, it is well worth the read. It lacks a little in substance but is a fairly enjoyable read!
I was immediately attracted to the concept of this book. The concept is the idea that when you die you don't go straight to heaven necessarily, if you have people on earth who remember and had contact with you. You will go to the city which is like a second life. This concept is very intriguing and I wanted to know more about it.
The book not only follows the city where you go if you die but it also follows a character called Laura who is living and is currently fighting for her life in the dangerous conditions of Antarctica. She is on an expedition which she has been given by her workplace, coca cola.
The chapters skip from Laura to the residents of the city and back to Laura and so forth. This doesn't quite flow well as you encounter a different resident in the city, at every new chapter which is set in the city. It upheavals you at times and can lead to frustration. Frustrated because you begin to connect to the residents of the city and want to learn more about them and follow their journey. But a new chapter throws you in with a new resident and a new perspective.
The book had mind blowing concepts and ideas following throughout it but unfortunately these weren't developed at all. I was left wanting to know more and in disbelief that the writer left them hanging. The concepts were so good I just had know more. The need to know was so great and it was gutting not to be given the insight.
Overall, I found that this book didn't satisfy my needs and wants as the reader. Too many big events and concepts in the book were barely mentioned nor developed to a satisfying level. I was left frustrated and needing more from the author.
Based on a short story and extended into a novel, really more of a novella, this is a clever but ultimately frustrating story to read.
It's hooked around the concept that, once dead, people's spirits remain in a massive city so long as someone still alive on earth can remember them.
The story follows the plight of the last living woman on earth after she's discovered her isolation in Antarctica has saved her from a global pandemic.
Simultaneously, the dead in the city are analysing their surroundings and carrying on their lives in much the same manner as they ever did when alive.
The unanswered questions which bothered me when reading this book mainly concerned how the city functioned. I could suspend my disbelief enough to swallow a limbo city filled memory spirits but my brain worried about where they got their fresh milk from or why they worked or got paid. The whole ecology of the city flummoxed me.
I think it's an interesting concept and well-written book. The descriptions of the Antarctic were particularly absorbing and the plot bobbed along for most of the time. But towards the end I started to feel there was no way to wrap things up. I prefer a distinct ending and there really wasn't one here.
Let me say first that this is a really hard book to review, thanks Chocolatelady for suggesting that I write this review.
The reason it is so hard is because whilst there is a basic storyline and plot, it does not fit easily into any genre, and it is one of those books that touches such personal places that everone that reads it will feel differently about it. The only other book that is 'similar' is the five people you meet in heaven by Mitch Albom.
There is a place where the dead go, not heaven, but a city, somewhere in the cosmos, very like an American city, it has; shops, resuarants, newspapers, parks etc. People who have died go there before 'moving on' somewhere else (heaven?) some time later 60 years or so. This 'city' hosts all these people who just go about their 'lives' as they might on Earth, they can't have children, apart from that they can do pretty much anything. here is the twist, they are kept in this place as long as at least one person on Earth is alive that remembers them; "The living carry us inside them like pearls. We survive only as long as they remember us." This is what the city custodian and record keeper, Luka, tells us. We get to see how these people live in a pretty nice way, enjoying their 2nd life, very sweet and very comforting for we all think about death sometimes.
This is one third of the story. The 2nd third is that of Laura, stuck in a godforsaken Antarctic research station doing some sort of reearch for Coca Cola. Her colleagues die off and she is trapped in a pretty desperate fight for survival, not knowing when, or whether she will be rescued, and having little idea what is going on in the outside world.
The final 3rd of the story revolves around the fact that the people in the 'heaven city' seem to be dissapearing quicker than usual and bits of the city itself seem to be shrinking, which cause a mild panic amongst the 'residents'. We find out that this is related to a deadly virus on earth, as people die, memories die and so the people in the city 'dissapear'.
I will not spoil the ending, but you now know the plot.
A very unique concept which had me thinking quite a lot. there are bits of the book that are very joyful and upbeat, and bits that are gut wrenchingly (is that a word?) sad.
At times the 'flitting' between the 'other world' and Laura is a little confusing and on a couple of occassions I had to re read a couple of pages, generally the morning after I had read them dozing off. Yet this is neccessary to convey the 'link' between the world here and the world there.
The book is contemporary in that it uses the fear of the virus in the same way we are all aware these days of biological warfare, and it also ties in some old 'themes' like the apocolypse, and how it might come about due to mans doing
So, did I like it?
Yes, mainly because it was different, but also because, like Mitch Albom's book that I mentioned earlier, it made me consider possibilities and let my mind wander. I still think when one dies that is it, worm food, but it would be nice to consider other endings, lol, Paul.
'Gripping and moving' - The Sunday Times
'Wonderful' - The independent
'A powerful read' - Time Out