For this week I am going to do something a little different, I am going to talk about books that explore a theme that is almost never covered in science fiction, the afterlife. And I do not mean uploading your mind or something, I mean that your soul is real and it goes somewhere when you die. I have only read a few science fictions that deal with the idea.
The first is the most recent, the Reality Dysfunction trilogy by Peter Hamilton (One of my favorite modern authors).
It’s a space opera in the grandest tradition of the genre, with a large confederation of human worlds with only a few known aliens races. On a new colony world an energy being sees a human die and the path his soul takes, and in so doing accidentally opens a bridge from there to the here and now.
Out come the first souls, all near insane with sensory deprivation and wanting to make a war on the living, wanting to keep their bodies at all costs. They can allow other dead to take their bodies, you get one of them on your planet you could have hundreds the next day, thousand after that.
It handled the idea well and was able to weave all the various plot elements and themes together, much better then I would have thought possible if I was told the basic idea of the book before I read it.
The sign of true art is the ability to make very hard things look very easy, this series does that.
The second is the Riverword series by Farmer.
The basic idea is that everyone who died after the age of five and before 1984 (or somewhere around there) wakes up all at once along the banks of a river all at the same time. This river is bound by mountains and runs in a helix from one pole of a planet to another.
If you die once there your reborn somewhere else along the river.
The book does explain the hows and whys but the series is a good example of what I call exportation scifi.
The series is a classic, with a really unique idea.
The third example that I have read is Traitor to the Living also by Farmer.
This is a much darker book then the Riverworld series. It starts with the idea that someone invented a device that allows you to see into the afterlife, but that its hell and everyone is there. I would like to say it gets happier from that, but it really does not. Still it is thought provoking and takes another look at the idea.