The Brief History of the DeadAuthor: Kevin Brockmeier
Rating: 4/5 stars
Laura Byrd is alone at the end of the world. Stranded in Antarctica while a man-made pandemic sweeps the planet, she’s trying to piece together the mystery of what’s happening and what her future holds. On the other side of the veil of death, a city copes with the effects of the plague and pieces together the mystery of Laura Byrd.
In some respects, this is a survival story. There is an element of adventure in Laura’s struggle as she travels the frozen wastes in search of contact with others. In some respects, it is a warning. Though it seems to be set in the future, this is a familiar and realistic future. Threats from terrorism and ecological damage as well as the response to each from society as a whole are a natural extension from what we see today, reminding us that our fate is in our own hands. However, this is really a story about human nature, the strength of memory, and the ways that we connect throughout our lives. When all the busy work of life is stripped away, we find the small and inconsequential moments that mean everything.
While the style of writing is comfortable, it also has a dreamlike quality, at times fluttering back and forth through a character’s memory, lighting on minor details. These little things serve to illuminate aspects of their stories. We are introduced to a crowd of personalities and invited to discover the connections between them, which we do gradually, in quiet ways through the course of the book. Though the ending leaves us with no clear answer, it does leave us with a deeper understanding.