The only reason I picked up The Brief History of the Dead is because I'd been looking to possibly submit a story to a contest he was judging. Curious about him, I looked him up on BN. The cover of the book looked familiar, but I guess the cover and title alone weren't something that would normally get my attention, so I'd never bothered to read the back. However, once I read the description on BN.com, I was so fascinated that I put in my order online pretty quickly.
This was a book that I was sucked into immediately, from beginning til end. The concept is so original that you can't help but want to get to each next page.
The book is basically about a world, an "afterlife" where people go to after they die. There, they have normal lives, have jobs, eat, etc. They hold onto their identities and their memories of their lives on earth. The catch is that they only get to stay there as long as someone living remembers them. Once forgotten, they disappear, onto some unknown next phase of the cycle (heaven or whatever). Intertwined with this is the story of a young woman on Earth, who might possibly be the last living person, thanks to a massive pandemic that has wiped out everybody else.
The book is inventive and rich in its details about the lives that people live in this 2nd world, and the different people. Additionally, there's some great memories that he comes up with, highlighting the poignancy of the little things, as well as how important it is to remember things and people. My favorite moment is this memory where a man catches a girl's balloon on a roof as it floats by and he takes it back down to street level to return it to her. What a wonderful memory. So fresh and vivid.
The joy in this book isn't so much a plot arc - you kinda know where it's going - but to delve in the lives and memories of these people who are facing the end of the line and can now think about who they remember and who they are remembered by.
I really really enjoyed this book, and will probably pick it up again in a couple of years, because I feel like it's something that probably gets better with a second read because of all the details.