Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Afterlife" by Guy Smith

Title: "Afterlife"
Author: Guy Smith
Pages: 114
Format: Novella
Genre: Literary/Speculative Fiction
Standalone/Series: Standalone
Publisher: G3 Media

What you can expect: A humorous, slightly sarcastic, and dynamic exploration of the afterlife in a manner that strays away from tradition and offers a fresh glimpse to how life after death may develop.

Pros: I am partial towards humor and sarcasm, both of which are largely uncharted waters in literature, since the sense of humor manifests and branches out in a highly individualistic way in every human being. “Afterlife” managed to make me chuckle.

Cons: Heavily overwrought prose, which dragged the story on several occasions. I find it a joy to see an erudite accommodate new-fangled phases every now and then to showcase a broad vocabulary, but here it felt over the top some of the times. The constant replacement of ‘death’ with ‘demise’ remained my pet peeve.

Summary: After death, one soon discovers that every theologian was right. The afterlife offers too many inconvenient options including the chance at reincarnation, a boring existence as a ghost, the ultimate demise of oblivion or a short walk into the great unknown on the other side of The Light.

AFTERLIFE is a humorous yet tragic tale that forces everyone to rethink their postmortem prejudices. If you think life is frustrating, try death.

Characters: “Afterlife” is the narration of a deceased man, who after a fatal car crash has to adapt the world that is beyond the living. Along the way pop up odd characters such as Sarge, head of the group named the Watchers, who guard the souls of babies at Mercy Hospital, and Old Thomas, a very unpleasant, elderly ghost with a venomous tongue and long experience as a ghost.

There is a certain air of anonymity regarding the main protagonist. He remains unnamed at large, which is quite easy as the story is delivered through a very skillful first person point of view and apart from his professional experience in marketing comes off as a regular person. He is a hard-working man, devoted husband and a good guy. As a character he doesn’t stand out with a unique trait, because this isn’t the author’s intent. “Afterlife” documents what an average person would experience as a ghost and Smith succeeds with a realistic depiction of the average man, which in turn makes it easy for the reader to identify with the character’s fate.

Sarge and Old Thomas are what I like to refer as tutorial-characters, who ease the reader and protagonist alike in the world of the not-yet-departed dead through their own experience. Both characters are a joy to read in conversations and reveal different aspects of the afterlife in a way that doesn’t betray realism.

The Story: “Afterlife” boiled down to three elements that helped me build my opinion – concept, dialogue and prose. Dialogue I think is the strongest aspect of the novella as it added a very vibrant, up-beat and electric dynamics to the story. The concept of the afterlife here is fresher in a sense that it’s funnier and yet more logical than what society has imagined it so far. I understood why ghosts would be agonizing in boredom and how they would move in this world and be repelled by matter. The prose as an element here worked sometimes against me. Smith is an erudite man and to have such an intellectual command over the language is deserving of high praise, but as I said there were occasions where it was too much, where the narrative felt unrealistic and I couldn’t buy that a man would reason like that.

Otherwise the story itself has a bit of everything, essentially mimicking life itself. There is love, which in these circumstances can be viewed as the impossible variety. There are the bonds of friendship involved, betrayal, some action and excitement, enlightenment, laughter and tears. “Afterlife” is a tragedy within a comedy, which manages to end on a positive note and certainly aspire hopes that death is as interesting in real life as it is here.

The Verdict: Can’t say it is an addictive page-turner, but it’s a fine investment for your book collection.

Rating: 4 out of 5 satisfied nods.

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