Review: The Brief History of the Dead, by Kevin Brockmeier

This book gave me a nightmare. A very vivid, very scary nightmare where I was trapped in the cold darkness of Antarctica and no one would rescue me. I woke up in a cold sweat and frankly, I didn’t appreciate it. So excuse me if my nightmare colors my appreciation (or lack thereof) for this book.

I’ll say this about History: it’s inventive, clever, and well-written. Here’s the plot: people are dying on earth quickly. Where do they go when they die? As long as someone they know remembers them, they live in a place called “the city”. There they can live whatever lives they choose without fear, sickness, or even money—for years, sometimes—until they vanish into thin air when they are no longer remembered (or there’s no one left to remember them). Think of it as Limbo for the dead. So what is happening on earth to make people vanish from “the city” at such a rapid rate? There’s a man-made virus sweeping the earth that’s being transported by…Coke (you might want to put down that can you’re holding). Called “The Blinks”, it kills in a few days and there is no antivirus to be found. Brockmeier alternates chapters about different people in “the city” with the story of Laura, still alive back on Earth, who is doing research for Coke in Antarctica. She doesn’t know what’s going on in the States, but she knows something is wrong…there’s no one answering her calls back at headquarters, and her crew is running out of food. She sends out her two research comrades to find help, and when they don’t come back, she goes off to find them in her damaged sledge. When she finally makes it to the second camp, instead of finding 18 healthy scientists, she finds…18 graves. With no one left to communicate with and supplies dwindling, she strikes off yet again to find help in the below-freezing temperatures.

The book was well-written and the stories taking place in the city were mostly interesting (although I couldn’t see the point or how they were connected to each other until midway through the book). But the story of Laura was depressing with each passing chapter as you realized there was no one left to help her and she cannot possibly survive the arctic conditions. Thus—my nightmare. What am I supposed to get out of this story? We could all be killed by a man-made virus being cooked up as we speak? Don’t drink Coke? Never read depressing apocalyptic fiction? I don’t need puppies and flowers and happy thoughts from all my books, but I need them to have some sense of optimism. Although I guess if you’re dead, you really don’t care.

Ok, so I lied: I do need puppies and happy thoughts. I like stories with a happy ending. Sue me. Maybe if this book had been solely the characters in the city, I would have enjoyed it more, but page after page of Laura’s suffering were enough to give it a thumbs down. I’m sure there are other literary souls who enjoyed it more. What did you think?

2 out of 4 Stars

Reviewed by Erin Payton


BookMarks: Beyond the Page is here!

Welcome to BookMarks: Beyond the Page! The CPCC Libraries is expanding BookMarks from an event that occurs a few times a year to an ongoing discussion about the books we love and the books we love to hate. With the quarterly in-person BookMarks events being such a success, we decided to start this blog as a supplement which will be updated weekly with new book reviews and will allow anyone to comment on each review. The catch? You write the reviews. We’ve all read an exceptional book and wanted to spread the word about it or a real stinker and needed to warn everyone. Well, this is your chance! Reviews can be as short or as long as the writer likes. What have you read lately? The CPCC community would like to know! Send us your reviews using the submit a review link at the right hand side of the page.

Read the first two reviews now!

Review: One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich

I discovered Janet Evanovich after reading a profile on her in People Magazine and decided to pick up her ninth book in the Stephanie Plum series. I enjoyed it so much that a friend told me to start from the beginning. And so I did. What a quick, entertaining read! Stephanie Plum is the plucky Jersey heroine of Evanovich’s novels. In One for the Money, she has just been fired from her job at the underwear manufacturer and needs to find work—fast. Luckily her scumbag cousin Vinnie runs a bail bonds business, and she talks him into hiring her to be a recovery agent, AKA a bounty hunter. The problem? Stephanie has no idea what she’s doing. No matter: she charges ahead anyway, eager to get some bills paid. Seeing visions of dollar signs, Stephanie picks the highest bail jumper she can find as her first job: Joe Morelli, a Jersey cop accused of murder who skipped his $100,000 bail, and was also responsible for taking Stephanie’s virginity behind the Tasty Kake Bakery when she was 16, without calling her again. The nerve! Stephanie vows to track him down to get her $10,000 finders fee AND make him pay for being such a jerk. Will she bring him in, or just become not only a gigantic pain in his tail but a complete screw-up as well?

Evanovich was a housewife when she wrote this first novel, and you can see her freshness and Jersey upbringing in every page. It won all kinds of awards, for good reason. The characters are richly drawn and very funny and the plot moves along. I read the book in one 4-hour sitting. And because it’s a series, you want to pick up the next one to see how Stephanie, wily, sexy Joe Morelli, hot and mysterious Ranger (the Henry Higgins to Stephanie’s Eliza Doolittle in all ways bounty hunting), sprightly Grandma Mazur, sassy hooker Lula, and a host of other quirky characters make out. But Stephanie Plum—irritating, hard headed, sarcastic, big-haired, but always well-meaning—is the one you want to see catch the bad guys…hopefully without shooting herself in the foot with her new .38!

4 Stars out of 4
Reviewed by: Erin Payton

Review: The Probable Future — by Alice Hoffman

My cousin recommended this book, and I listened to it on tape in the car driving to and from work. The story concerns the Sparrow family of women who, at age 13, have a ‘gift’ revealed to them. These gifts are not a subject of discussion, so when Stella Avery turns 13 she is frightened and bewildered by her ability to see how people will die. Her first reaction to seeing a stranger’s death is to convince her father (recently divorced from her mother) to report it to the police, which he does. When a murder takes place exactly as he describes, the police come looking for him, and the killer comes looking for her. In response, Stella is sent by her mother to live with her estranged maternal grandmother, who has the gift of smelling lies. As Stella adapts (remarkably well, I might add!) to this new life, she learns more of the Sparrow family history and becomes fascinated with the first Sparrow woman to suffer the gift, Rebecca.

There is an element of ‘romance’ as Stella has her first crush and her mother finds comfort with her ex-husband’s brother, but how the women handled or mishandled their gifts was of more interest to me.

2 1/2 Stars out of 4
Reviewed by: Amy Burns