Rating: 7 out of 10
Summary 1: SUM is an exploration of funny and unexpected afterlives that have never been considered–each presented as a vignette that offers us a stunning lens through which to see ourselves here and now.
In one afterlife you may find that God is the size of a microbe and is unaware of your existence. In another, your creators are a species of dim-witted creatures who built us to figure out what they could not. In a different version of the afterlife you work as a background character in other people’s dreams. Or you may find that God is a married couple struggling with discontent, or that the afterlife contains only those people whom you remember, or that the hereafter includes the thousands of previous gods who no longer attract followers. In some afterlives you are split into your different ages; in some you are forced to live with annoying versions of yourself that represent what you could have been; in others you are re-created from your credit card records and Internet history. David Eagleman proposes many versions of our purpose here; we are mobile robots for cosmic mapmakers, we are reunions for a scattered confederacy of atoms, we are experimental subjects for gods trying to understand what makes couples stick together.
Summary 2: A clever little book by a neuroscientist translates lofty concepts of infinity and death into accessible human terms. What happens after we die? Eagleman wonders in each of these brief, evocative segments. Are we consigned to replay a lifetime’s worth of accumulated acts, as he suggests in “Sum,” spending six days clipping your nails or six weeks waiting for a green light? Is heaven a bureaucracy, as in “Reins,” where God has lost control of the workload? Will we download our consciousnesses into a computer to live in a virtual world, as suggested in “Great Expectations,” where “God exists after all and has gone through great trouble and expense to construct an afterlife for us”? Or is God actually the size of a bacterium, battling good and evil on the “battlefield of surface proteins,” and thus unaware of humans, who are merely the “nutritional substrate”? Mostly, the author underscores in “Will-‘o-the-Wisp,” humans desperately want to matter, and in afterlife search out the “ripples left in our wake.” Eagleman’s turned out a well-executed and thought-provoking book. (Feb.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
My Thoughts: I was very impressed by Eagleman’s creativity and reach here. I really like his style of writing and all the ideas he came up with about afterlives that I had never even considered before. Really cool short story collection.
There were some really great thought-provoking ones, and of course there were a few doozies too. I still admire his originality.
Sum really gets you thinking.