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Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 10, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Ostensibly a book about what happens after we die, ironically Sum is really an examination of what it means to live. After all the divide is perhaps not as great as we think and as John Keats once wrote, "Life is but a Waking Dream."
In the course of these 40 imaginings of the afterlife, Eagleman takes you on a long and varied emotional journey. Some of the Sums are absurd and surreal, others are poigant and poetic, others are funny and wild, some are neurologically cutting edge while others are dreamily abstract. It's an astonishing feat of the mind and to top it all, they are all written is this clear and limpid prose that is a joy and completely effortless to read.
I have a feeling that this book is going to become one of these word of mouth sleeper hits. There are at least 20 people I plan to give it to straight away and everyone I have read snippets of it to has immediately responded to its humanity and humour.
I'm sure that at least one or two of reviewers of this book will be tempted to write, "Greater than the Sum of its parts", because that is exactly what it is. Enjoy and dream and smile and weep.
For instance, there is "Distance" which allows "us" to ask God face to face why He lives in a palace far, far away instead of " 'in the trenches with us.' " God replies he used to live among us, but " '[o]ne morning I awoke to find people picketing in front of my driveway.' "
And "Circle of Friends" tells of an afterlife in which each person exists on an earth peopled only by those he or she knew in life -- for most people about "0.00002 percent of the world's population. "The missing crowds make you lonely."
Eagleman's biological expertise makes stories such as "Descent of Species" especially lucid and rich reading. The former asks what would happen to a weary sentient being -- say, you -- who decides to reincarnate as a lower species -- say a horse. What would happen to your capacity to make a higher choice during the next life/death cycle?Read more ›
Fact is, the wider mysteries of life cannot be solved. So this leaves plenty of scope for imagination. What if, in the aferlife, you meet all alternative versions of yourself - people who took the path you didn't take, versions of yourself who worked a little harder, who pursued that girl a little more forcefully. How would that feel? What if, in the afterlife, you meet God, but he is not the all powerful beast of the Christian religion but a rather confused man who realises the game is up - humans have outsmarted him on all his big conceits, they know more than he ever expected and he can't play the same fear trick as he did in the Old Testament?
Sum is 40 such stories. Some are brilliant - such as story one, where all your life episodes are rearranged in compartmentalised order: 3 years of showering, 2 weeks of pain, three months of looking for stuff etc. Some are quirky neuroscience ideas that don't quite fly off the page.
If you want to find out more about this possiblianism idea, I suggest both reading this book and looking at the clip on Will Self's website of Will Self interviewing David Eagleman about this book, and ideas about the afterlife.Read more ›
Each alternate explanation of the hereafter is a fresh look at life and the living, communicated through a unique voice. Some heart-wrenching, some playful- none trite and all witty. Eagleman truly has a special gift for boiling concepts and ideas down to their simplest form, and in SUM, he has written something that will speak to each and every one of us. It is a book that can not only entertain, but also spark new lines of thought and imagination.
Upon mentioning the book to a new acquaintance, he replied that 3 of his friends had read it and were buying copies for all their friends- his own was sitting out in his car. And how often are people so moved to share a piece of literature that they buy copies for all their friends? I think this only speaks to SUMS' brilliance, creativity, and singularity.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A scientist's effort and bringing fiction into the arena of metaphor: a great idea. Quick-reads, for the most part. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Kathleen S.
From a camping ground for old gods no longer worshipped to a heaven in which one can choose to live out eternity as a horse, “Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives” is truly a... Read morePublished 14 days ago by sandy mcc
A clever, creative, mind-twisting collection of short bits of genius. Eagleman presents 2-3 page examinations of what an “afterlife” might be. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Stephen Bridge
This was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. I had no idea what it was about prior to reading, but it gives you the feeling you get when reading Emerson... Read morePublished 29 days ago by rachel
These little vignettes are very thought provoking and enjoyable. I have read a few to my 12 year son, as well as to my wife, because they are fun conversation starters. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Tod
I love the audio version better but this book is fantastic. I love how he made an existential topic so readable and enjoyable. David Eagleman is a genius and so is this book.Published 1 month ago by Michael O.