Book Club: Afterlife Edition

Metaphysical gossip optional, drinking recommended.

Joseph Kleinschmidt

This week, we’re reading books dealing with life beyond death. Featuring both a scientist and an LSD user straight out of Berkeley, Calif., the two selections provide mind-altering accounts that’ll expand your brain but not your backpack.

Both works are concise and will serve as your brief escape into the void should you choose to read. Should you not partake in such literary abandon, A&E has combed the cosmos for a death-centered drink selection sure to make you reel in alternate realities anyway.

 

“Ubik” by Philip K. Dick

 

Pulp science fiction may never see another visionary like the speed-popping provocateur that inspired the classic movies “Bladerunner” and “Total Recall.” Before he experienced religious hallucinations leading him to believe he was leading parallel lives, Dick mastered the art of expressing his unrest with a central question in his life: What is real? First published in 1969, “Ubik” presents his supernatural take on science fiction.

Joe Chip works as a technician for a company tasked with stopping telepathic powers of the general population. When his employer, Glen Runciter, sends him on a mission with other employees, the group barely survives an explosion meant to kill them. Set in Dick’s version of 1992 where the dead can remain in a “half-life,” Chip and others try to communicate with Runciter as their reality slowly morphs to fit an omnipotent creator’s conditions.

At a fast-paced 202 pages, the novel is only demanding in its cerebral plot. You have to mentally follow Dick’s entertaining meandering as he locks you into a hall of mirrors. “Ubik” eerily predates the mind-bending realities behind big-budget movies like “The Matrix” and “Inception.”

 

Pairs well with: Maker’s Mark whiskey, which will help fuel your searing existentialism.

 

“Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives” by David Eaglemen

 

Neuroscientist David Eagleman ditches concrete methodology in favor of exploring entertaining notions of what lies beyond the grave. He provides forty thought experiments of the afterlife intended to give a range of potential human destinies once we croak.

One of the many possibilities he offers, entitled “Metamorphosis,” envisions your final departure into death as when the last person on Earth remembers you. No one will utter your name or think of you again. But before you’re granted this final venture into the void, you have to wait in an airport-style waiting area, complete with coffee, tea and cookies.

Eagleman’s prose shifts from meditative to humorous and never feels preachy even in light of the fact that the author coined a philosophy after “Sum” termed “Possibilianism.” Each story adds up to a poignant, unclassifiable reading experience. At a mere 107 pages, exploring our eventual demise has never been so much fun.

 

Pairs well with: Everclear and Dr. Pepper, or something with a range of possibilities for your evening’s stupor.