It was a very difficult month to keep up with reading, at least the truly pleasurable kind. Most of it was delving into the finer points of the first half of Wysocki’s Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme (which, honestly is not as dry as you might imagine it) for my PMI Certification classes. I aced the class, so the time was well spent. I was able to swing a few moments between the holiday and some painful personal happenings to crank out a couple of books though.
I have not spent a lot of time in the library as of late and it was honestly very calming to sit there in a soft chair looking out the window and the snow flurries flipping the worn pages of a book. Of the two readings for the month, the random selection was a pleasant surprise and is why the review is actually a few days late (wanted to wrap it up I was so drawn in). The other book is by an author a friend recommended to me. Since she nailed it on so many of the other recommendations she’s made this one was predictably good even though it wasn’t one of the titles she’d mentioned. The interesting thing about both books is how similar the chapters of both books were crafted, alternating parts of the story between different voices. It is always a pleasant quirk when readings line up with those kinds of unintended parallels.
The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
Drawing from the Huxley and Orwell school of fear-driven futures Brockmeier weaves two worlds together demonstrating the interrelatedness of us all. Without delving too deep into the complexities of the plot, when a person dies they pass through to an alternate plane of being where their post-death life exists only as long as they are still in the memory of the real world. The real world however is now entrenched in its own self-destructive peril where an ominous disease called the Blinks wipes out the majority of life casting the world beyond into its own turmoil. As the mass exodus from one world to the next to the next occurs those stuck in the initial afterlife become drawn together in the understanding that the last person in the world of the living is a common connection between all of them. The memories of their past life become interwoven into the tapestry of the survior’s own desperate tale to survive in as the end appears to draw increasingly near. At times there is almost a Shelly’s Last Man quality to the seemingly never ending trek by survivor Laura Byrd as she struggles to put her own life into context as she see the world becoming increasingly redefined around her.
At times the parallels between the corporate greed and governmental mismanagement in the world of the living book and in the modern world are almost chilling. Then again, so are some of the social elements that appear in the afterlife as the deceased struggle to define their new ‘lives’ in a world that only haphazardly follows the context they previously knew. The scripting of the dialogs along with the vividness of the imagery makes the book ebb and flow with huge emotional undulation, though, the attention to detail in crafting some of the scenes can actually make it feel slower moving than necessary it was a pleasant addition because of the depth it adds to the images in your mind, particularly in the closing chapters.
Paul Coelho The Witch of Portobello