Sum : Forty Tales From The Afterlives / David Egleman

Eagleman works as a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and his background is put to good use in the stories in Sum, a vividly imagined collection of forty possible afterlives that might follow our deaths. While his day job deals with neuroscience, he is first and foremost a writer who excels in the craft of writing short stories. The vignettes he presents here are funny and creative, with delightful twists that brought a smile to my face. But better still, he also delivers a twist on the twist itself, making each a thoughtful examination of how we define ourselves as human beings. The stories are compact, running from two to four pages, without a wasted word throughout. In one afterlife, God is the size of a microbe and unaware of our existence. Another finds that each of us is forced to live with annoying versions of the better people we could have been if we had only tried harder while alive. While the stories are rooted in science, one does not need a neuroscience background to fully enjoy these witty and sometimes unsettling tales. Deftly offered by this first time fiction author, these captivating vignettes are a delight to read. The book is short enough to finish in a single sitting, but it is best savored in small doses. I found myself reading many of them a second time just to marvel all over again at the author’s creativity. Highly recommended.

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