121. Sum (David Eagleman)

Subtitled “Forty Tales from the Afterlife,” Sum compiles 40 visions of the afterlife, making it structurally similar to Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams, and Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and *ahem* my own Clockfire. The premise contains an inherent danger — that each “vision” of the afterlife will be more saccharin than the last — but Eagleman (a neuroscientist) avoids bland religiosity for the most part. His gods, when present, are weak, tired, failures for the most part, and often not present at all, or as bacteria unaware of our existence, alien races less intelligent than we, and so forth. Almost entirely compelling, sometimes nightmarish (and often science-fictional), and cleverly twisting “tales” that deserve your attention.

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