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Literature / The Brief History of the Dead

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The Brief History of the Dead is a 2006 fantasy and adventure novel by Kevin Brockmeier.

Once Upon a Time, in a land far, far away... really far away... there existed a city. It had no name, and nobody knew exactly where it was. It was just called The City. Its unnatural lack of an actual label and location in the world may be due to the fact that it's not even found in the world. It is an afterlife of sorts, but it's not the kind of heaven or hell that most people would expect. It is simply a place where the souls of the dead wind up after departing the Earth.


But unlike the typical depictions where people spend the rest of eternity lounging around in the afterlife, it turns out that the souls only stay in The City as long as there are people alive who remember them. Once everyone that ever knew them dies off, their soul ends up blinking out of The City, and it is unknown where these souls go. But lately, it seems that something is happening in The City. People seem to be vanishing more quickly than usual...

Cut to Antarctica, where a trio of researchers for Coca-Cola are trying to discover methods of using the polar ice in the manufacture of soft drinks (since the cap was already melting anyway). These three were Laura Byrd, Michael Puckett and Robert Joyce. The expedition was supposed to last only six months, but disaster struck when their communication arrays got busted. A while passed as they waited for Coca-Cola to re-establish contact with them or send a rescue team, but no such thing came along.


Eventually, they figured they needed to get out of this mess themselves, so Puckett and Joyce set out to find another station of researchers, these ones studying the migratory habits of emperor penguins. However, they had not returned to Laura for weeks after they departed, so after much sulking about on her own, Laura resolved to go out on her own to find the station, and hopefully Puckett and Joyce as well...

As the story goes back and forth between The City and Laura's exploits, the situation becomes clearer and clearer: a highly lethal virus has been spreading far and wide, and thanks to the severe increase in death rates, people in The City, of course, are starting to pop out as well. Eventually, Laura is the only person left alive on the Earth, and it is due to her absurdly spatious memory that there are still thousands of people left in The City. Now she must somehow endure the harsh trials of Antarctica, for once her death comes around, The City and everyone inside it will completely vanish.


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This novel by Kevin Brockmeier includes examples of:


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