Sum - Forty Tales From the Afterlives
SUM shows us forty wonderfully imagined possibilities of life beyond death. In one afterlife you may find that God is the size of a microbe and is unaware of your existence. In another, your creators are a species of dim-witted creatures who built us to figure out what they could not. In a different version of the afterlife you work as a background character in other people's dreams. Or you may find that the afterlife contains only people whom you remember, or that the hereafter includes the thousands of previous gods who no longer attract followers. In some afterlives you are split into your different ages; in some you are forced to live with annoying versions of yourself that represent what you could have been; in others you are re-created from your credit card records and Internet history. Many versions of our purpose here are proposed; we are mobile robots for cosmic mapmakers, we are reunions for a scattered confederacy of atoms, we are experimental subjects for gods trying to understand what makes couples stick together. These tales--at once witty, wistful and unsettling--are rooted in science and romance and awe at our mysterious existence while asking the key questions about death, hope, technology, immortality, love, biology and desire that expose radiant new facets of our humanity.
* Witty, bright, sharp and unexpected ... as surprising a book as I've read for years. Every story is a new Heaven. -- Brian Eno * SUM is terrific. It's such a good idea that I was grinding my teeth all the way through wishing I'd thought of it first. The inventiveness, the clarity and wit of the prose, the calm air of moral understanding that pervades the whole thing, add up to something completely original. I hope Sum will be the great big hit it deserves to be. -- Philip Pullman * SUM is an imaginative and provocative book that gives new perspectives on how to view ourselves and our place in the world. Alan Lightman, author of EINSTEIN'S DREAM * Brilliantly realised, blazingly original, Sum isn't so much about the next life as this one. Eagleman's stories - parables? - a chilly reminder of our foibles and delusions. -- Colin Waters Sunday Herald 20090503 * This is as much an object of desire as an actual book ... elegant, surreal and philosophically questioning, each story from neuroscientist Eagleman offers an inventive, thought-provoking blend of science and romance ... sly wit, ingenuity and oddly acute insight into the vagaries of the human condition. -- Tina Jackson Metro 20090420 * Clever, memorable stuff. -- Lottie Moggach The London Paper 20090429 * 40 intriguing tales describing different heavenly scenarios ... and all formidably imagined ... Readers may discover much to appreciate - not least the lives they are living now, still so much better than some nightmares in these pages ... quirky, occasionally unsettling ... never short of new new ideas, all of them rolled out with style. -- Nicholas Tucker Independent 20090511 * I suppose there could be people who dislike Canongate's latest find ... those, dare one say it, without poetry in their souls. For the rest - the millions who even in a post-religious, secular society find themselves at unexpected moments wondering who or what God is, if he's not a little old man sitting on a cloud. -- Mary Crockett Scotsman 20090509 * A clever book. -- Robert Hanks Daily Telegraph 20090523 * This stunningly original book is little more than 100 pages long. You can get through it in an hour, but you'd be mad to hurry, and you will certainly want to return to it many times ... Sum has the unaccountable, jaw-dropping quality of genius. It seems exquisitely adapted to fill the contemporary longing for a kind of secular holy book. -- Geoff Dyer Observer 20090607 * The most thought provoking stocking filler you could hope to find: a slender volume of bite size vignettes pondering what happens after we die. Scotsman 20091206 * It does what it says in the title - satirical, playful, troubling, inventive, thought provoking and often funny takes on possible afterlives. A complete one off. I've been buying it and giving to friends and family. Everyone is delighted. Keep by the bed and feed yourself one or two before turning out the light. -- Andrew Greig Sunday Herald 20091129 * Charming, a bit whimsical, and thought-provoking. -- Mark Sarvas * This delightful, thought-provoking little collection belongs to that category of strange, unclassifiable books that will haunt the reader long after the last page has been turned. It is full of tangential insights into the human condition and poetic thought experiments ... full of touching moments and glorious wit of the sort one only hopes will be incopious supply on the other side. The New York Times
David Eagleman, PHD, is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas where his research laboratory is developing a reputation for doing some of the most unusual experiments in contemporary neuroscience. He has had essays published in all manner of journals including Nature and Science. He also lectures widely and continues to be invited to speak at universities all around the world.