Glimpses of the Afterlife

Here's vacation better visited through literature than in real life: a trip to the land(s) of the dead. This list takes you through all manner of possibilities and pantheons, in a glimpse of what’s beyond the veil.

 

The Brief History of the Dead

by Kevin Brockmeier

An impressive first novel by Brockmeier. He writes about a City populated by the recently departed, who reside there only as long as they remain in the memories of the living. Although this book is a quick and easy read, the conversations it generates are definitely not.

 

The Years of Rice and Salt

by Kim Stanley Robinson

An epic alternate-history from a sci-fi master. The increasingly-tense chapters in the Bardo –- the Buddhists plane of transition between reincarnations — are the reason to read the book.

 

The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

by Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison, illustrated by P. Craig Russell

My favorite arc in the long-running Sandman series. This book is packed full of rich character and plot development, while still maintaining a stately and elegant pace. Surprises abound, especially when Morpheus the Dream King visits hell.

 

The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso

by Dante Alighieri

Inferno, the most commonly read section of the three, is still inducing nightmares over 700 years after it was written. Purgatoro and Paradiso are necessary reads, not just to complete Dante’s vision but to feel a sense of redemption after the horrors of Inferno.

 

On a Pale Horse

by Piers Anthony

A look at not only what happens when you die, but at the bustling group of bureaucrats that organize it all. Anthony often gets labeled as a schlocky author (thanks mostly to his pun-heavy Xanth books), but this book and the series that follows shows great philosophic and emotional range.

 

A Fine and Private Place

by Peter S. Beagle

A charming love story, that just happens to feature two ghosts, an old man, and a raven. In my opinion, this is better Beagle than even The Last Unicorn.