Blueprints of the Afterlife

Image of Blueprints of the Afterlife
Release Date: 
January 3, 2012
Reviewed by: 

“Do not fight this book: Let it take you where it’s going, and let it show you what it wants to show you. You’ll be glad you did.”

Blueprints of the Afterlife is strange, frequently mystifying, entertaining, bizarre, and very well written. It tells the intersecting stories of an Olympic-level dishwasher with catastrophic empathy who quits to become a writer, a digital preservationist who feels like she’s living the wrong life, an ex-military mercenary who survived the war that changed everything and can’t seem to shake the devastating mental aftershocks, an actor with no past an no purpose other than being famous, a dotcom millionaire who gets caught up in a plot to speed up Armageddon, and a series of clones who serve a 155-year-old pop star.

This book is to the typical novel what cubism is to art. There’s a decided lack of transition between events that make the sections of the story seem to be independent, but as the story progresses, the connections form on their own and in ways our classically trained minds might not anticipate. And the fact that transitions are missing becomes part of the plot as well, preempting any discussion that it wasn’t entirely intentional.

There’s a brilliant aliveness to this book, a joyful throwing together of extrapolated pop culture, really cool ideas about medicine and technology, a preapocalyptic vision of the current world and a bizarrely livable postapocalyptic afterworld, and a near total lack of genre boundaries.

Sci-fi and history and allegory and reality and false reality all mash up together. One character can watch another character’s storyline amplified as a TV show; one person’s past might be another’s future, and you aren’t always sure which is which. Dreams and visions are as real as any of the reality, and often there is more overlap than is immediately apparent.

The whole story dances around the actual events of the end of the previous world, sketching out a disturbing view of what might happen without ever actually having to show it happening. Resolutions are few, but throughout the story, everything is presented as being related to and controlled by and pertaining to things we haven’t been told anyway, so when we get to the end, there’s the impression that we have been given a glimpse of a world, rather than being told its whole story. It’s a strange, overly colorful, scary, shallow, complicated glimpse, and it’s full of things so weird that they kind of force a sense of the sublime that sci-fi is always reaching for.

Blueprints of the Afterlife feels like something new while maintaining that perfect balance between wildly different and recognizable. It’s hard to describe, but it’s easy to read, easy to gen involved with. It’s artful, it’s affecting, and it’s more than worth the read, so long as you’re willing to go along for the ride. Do not fight this book: Let it take you where it’s going, and let it show you what it wants to show you. You’ll be glad you did.