A high-concept science fiction stand-alone seems like a rare thing; examples that also combine a multitude of other genres might as well be referred to as a unicorn. Fortunately for readers, Marcus Sakey has given us just that with his new novel, Afterlife.
In the hands of Marcus Sakey, Afterlife is a sci-fi adventure, a dystopian thriller, a touching love story, a metaphysical mystery, and more. Even with all of that in motion – even the “more” – none of these storylines are given short shift. And to make it even more of a feat, all of this comes in at a comfortable 300-ish pages (a true rarity for the science fiction genre).
FBI agent Will Brody starts out the novel responding to what could be a terrorist attack in modern-day Chicago, but before he knows it, he is dead and existing in the Afterlife.
Meanwhile, back in the “real world,” his boss and secret lover, Clarie McCoy is dealing with the fallout of this explosion and hunting the person responsible, all while hiding her personal heartbreak over Will’s death.
From here, readers get to experience two parallel investigations of this crime – one in reality and the other in the Afterlife. And much of the joy of this book comes from watching how these two existences play off of each other.
The Afterlife world – also know as The Echo – is a masterfully-crafted world-building exercise. Just the right level of detail is given on how this alternate universe works – allowing the reader to become fully invested in the outcome – without dragging the plot down with endless details only a physicist could understand. There are also enough open-ended concepts that allow the reader to think about this metaphysical world and its implications for the living – especially as it relates to religion, worship, and good versus evil.
Right on the cover of the books first edition, readers are told this will “soon be a motion picture,” so it will surprise no one that the writing within is cinematic in scope. The menacing parts of the Afterlife are depicted as though they are the needed action set-pieces intended to ramp up the risk for the existence-crossed lovers. When individuals “kill” in the The Echo, the life of their victim flashes through the perpetrators mind and soul, almost as if they have to live that person’s life in full over the course of just moments. This is both a deep concept with implications beyond the confines of the novel, but also happens to be an idea that will be visually arresting on screen.
None of this would work if Claire and Will were not characters readers immediately feel attached to. Ironically, it is their flaws that make them the most human and is what will endear them to reader’s hearts. Not to get too sappy, but the love story here really is one for the ages.
Dive into Afterlife now, because soon it will be the next big movie blockbuster discussed at Comic-Cons nationwide. With Marcus Sakey also writing the screenplay, readers can rest comfortable that what makes it to the screen will reflect what was always on the page.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title were provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.