Sum: 41 Tales of the Afterlife by David Eagleman

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4/5 stars.
Paperback, 128 pages.
Read June 12, 2015.

If you’re looking for a quick and inspiring read then you really should pick up this book. I guarantee you that you’ve never thought about the afterlife in this way regardless of what you believe. This book consists of 41 different short stories that detail different scenarios for the afterlife. Some are what you’d hope they’d be, while some detail a boring or intolerable afterlife or a God that has forgotten about his creations. All of which, make you consider the possibilities of what happens to us when we die.

The author David Eagleman is a bit of an overachiever. Not only is he an accomplished writer who is a New York times bestselling author whose books have been published into 23 different languages, he is also a neuroscientist. Yeah. This guys got it made. Though it’s no surprise that content of this book is so unique knowing that this man works on people’s brains on a daily basis and has probably witnessed his fair share of death in his profession.

This book has been the closest thing to a religious experience that I’ve ever encountered. As I am still somewhat young, the impeding death that affects us all isn’t the most prominent thing on my mind. It’s not that I haven’t experienced loss but in terms of myself, I’ve not yet given much thought to my own death or even what I think the afterlife might be. I believe that those that pass away have a way of being present in your life and that somehow they are always with us. An extremely agnostic approach to death but it’s the only way that feels comfortable for me. This book adds to my agnostic beliefs and comforts me further. Even with the most unpleasant depictions of that afterlife there is still something more tangible about the scenarios depicted in this book than the standard Christian one or even that of Atheist view. The book has a biblical feel in that it provided me some consolation or something more to consider in terms of the afterlife. Even if they are just stories. This is a book that is meant to be re-read. Many times. The beauty of this book is that the stories can be read in any order so you’re looking for something  to ponder on or perhaps for some inspiration after a particularly rough day, you can randomly select a story from this book to help to help you reflect

I would not recommend this book for anyone that is fundamentalist with their religion. There are many times in this book in which the concepts of God are played with, mocked and turned right on its head. The concepts in this book are meant to be questioned, pondered and considered so if you’re not up for doing that with your own religion then do not read this book. For everyone else, put this book on your to-read list as soon as possible. Better yet, go and buy a copy and keep it to be re-read whenever you need it.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

 

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4/5 stars.
Read from February 25 to March 05, 2013.
Paperback, 239 pages.

Throwback review to when I read Warm Bodies. Yes, the book is exceptional and better than the movie.


Confession: This is my first zombie related novel and if the rest of the zombie plotted books are like this one, then I need to read more.

I feared for the worst with that novel; that it would be cliché and that the plot would come off as ridiculous. I mean, really? A zombie romance? I thought to myself that there was no way that this could go well but Marion, happily, proved me wrong. The plot is gruesome, elegant and highly entertaining.

R is just zombie who is tired of his zombie life. He seems to process and think a bit more than his fellow zombie comrades. After saving a young woman named Julie, things begin to drastically change for R. His dead heart seems to start to feel again. Terrified Julie doesn’t know what to make of this strange zombie that is protecting her instead of eating her but the situation makes her reevaluate the outbreak and how the small groups of remaining humans are currently dealing with the zombie situation. Both Julie and R have no idea just how much their interactions will change things forever.

Marion has given a whole new definition to the idea of zombies and I like that. Zombies are always portrayed in movies and TV as lifeless beings that have lost all touch with anything that ever made them human. The idea that there is still something worth saving is inspirational and adds a whole different dynamic to how zombies could be written and described. I think that Marion took a lot of risks writing on a genre that is so insanely popular right now. He gave it his own innovative spin and I would say that the risk has definitely paid off. I hope to see the movie now that I have finished the book.

For me, the defining points in this novel are ***SPOILER***how the zombies not only eat brains to feed themselves but to relive the memories of the person that they’re eating because it makes them feel, well, alive. The integration of Perry’s thoughts and memories with R’s and how deeply he was affected by them (and ultimately how it changed him) ***END SPOILER*** were really well done and were some of my favourite chapters in this novel. Also, Marion answered some of the questions that other zombie works skim over: he went into detail about how the zombies collaborated, how their bodies and brains worked and that they were capable of thought.

The scene that shook me the most in this novel has to be ***SPOILER*** near the end when Julie and R are trying to revolutionize change; the last encounter that they have with Juile’s dad… when he just gave up after seeing Julie side with R and then just let that lead Boney devour him without fighting back. The emotional states of all the characters were so well described and detailed that I believed this is how a zombie invasion would actually feel like. It was heart wrenching to envision this scene. Juile, losing both of her parents because they inevitably gave up and could not go on after fighting for this long against all odds. Julie’s resilience and push to strive for more and keep hope was impressive all considering what humanity and herself had faced. Her hope outlasted in the end to bring around a cure with the help of R ***END SPOILER***. ***ADDITION*** Having now seen the movie, I was both relieved and disappointed that they changed this ending with film.***

Marion does have a prequel to this novel which focuses on Julie, Perry and Nora’s story and I’m currently trying to get my hands on a copy. It’s called The New Hunger.

I would highly recommend this novel for anyone looking for something different.

The Martian by Andy Weir

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4/5 stars.
ebook, 300 pages.
Read from March 10 to 21, 2015.

I’m not normally a big science fiction fan but this book kept bombarding my Goodreads newsfeed so I figured I’d give it a try. This book absolutely exploded the year it was released and it is now being made into a big Hollywood movie which is expected to be released November 2015. Relatively unknown before the publication of this book, the author Andy Weir, is the son of a particle physicist and was caught up in the world of science fiction at a young age. He studied computer science, though he apparently didn’t graduate, not that it stopped him from him from working as a programmer and at some pretty big name companies like AOL and Blizzard. He actually worked on Warcraft 2 which I think is pretty awesome! I love that game. I’m tell you all this because it’s relevant to the content of this book as only someone with this kind of background could write a novel like this. This book is so hugely appealing because of the effort that Weir takes to make it realistic. This not only displays Weir’s intelligence but also his talent, as he manages to add some pretty technical aspects to this novel but it never loses its readability. It’s apparent that Weir enjoys puzzles and problems and his enjoyment comes through his words in this book.

Mark Watney is one of the first astronauts to land on Mars and with the way things are going he may the be the first to die there. Mark is a very funny, witty, intelligent and remarkably resourceful person. Apparently NASA selected him for the this mission for his optimism and sense of humor as, psychologically, it’s a good mix to have while being in space for years. Mark heads out to Mars with his team of other remarkably brilliant people to Mars to do a routine mission. However when a bad wind storm picks up Mark is thrown away from his team and his suit is pierced and the equipment in it malfunctions. His poor team, thinking, and for good reason, that he is dead pack up their stuff and head back on the almost year long trip back to Earth.   The book opens with Mark’s first realization that he his trapped on Mars with no way of communicating back to Earth that he is alive. NASA does eventually figure out that Mark is alive but the trouble is the publicity that this scenario has created back on Earth and the real dilemma of trying to rescue him before he runs out of food.

Where the book gets technical is with Mark’s brainstorming and problem solving. I’m no genius so I haven no idea how plausible the scenarios in the book are but they sure seem like they could be, so that’s a mission accomplished in my books. The situations and feats that Mark accomplishes to save his own skin on Mars is truly remarkable. As a reader, you’re anxiously awaiting to see how Mark solves his next trial in order to keep himself alive. What makes this book even better is that the chapters are written as a space log. Mark is recording his events on Mars to have some sort of documentation of what happens to him while he is on Mars, and not only are they remarkable but some of them are down right hilarious. He is so frank and honest in the logs because he doesn’t think that anyone will ever get a chance to listen to them. From cursing and despair, to commentary on the terrible entertainment his crew members left behind, Mark is a character I would love to meet and would definitely love to read more of. I’m anxious to see the movie now.

You don’t need to be a science fiction lover to enjoy this novel, but it never hurts to bring out your inner nerd.