Monday, January 27, 2014

Life After Life

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Life After Life (Reagan Arthur, 2013).

I hate to say this, but I was really quite disappointed with this book. It's been praised to the rafters, but the promise that I saw in the early chapters was lost, quite weirdly.

The premise has been explained as the book has been celebrated in so many places - it was Entertainment Weekly's best of 2013 - a girl, born in 1910, keeps getting resurrected and given additional chances to get her life right. For a short time, it's incredibly fascinating, as she briefly realizes that her entire life is one huge case of deja vu, and, at about seven years old, has to find some way to keep the Black Death from entering her family's country home, because it has killed her twice already.

So, briefly, the mechanics of her weird existence become incredibly interesting, along with the huge frustration that a kid that young must feel in somehow stopping a member of the staff from going up to London and catching the disease. But this seems to fall apart afterward. We get elements and fragments of her lives in the 1920s and through World War Two that are interesting and vivid, but she never addresses her resurrections and do-overs.

Even more disappointing, while I can absolutely understand anybody who lived through it being immediately willing to do anything to stop the war by killing Hitler as early as possible, we've had seventy years of science fiction playing with that premise already. Life After Life adds nothing to the subject, and its nebulous, unsatisfying ending left me feeling that the book could have either ended a hundred pages earlier or added an additional hundred and nothing would have changed. Not recommended.

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