Audiobook: 'Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives', By David Eagleman

Sue Gaisford
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:32

You can forget about drifting through the paradise garden or snuggling into the bosom of Abraham. It won't be like that, according to the neuroscientist David Eagleman. He has considered the perennially absorbing question of what happens to us when we die – and answered it 40 times.

A fine bunch of readers, including the actress Emily Blunt, inset, tackle these snappy, elegant and inventive vignettes. Each begins with death; each addresses the notion of a deity; each has a different solution. God is indifferent, benign, misguided, female, a cosy married couple, a molecule-tinkerer, a cartographer, a busy little quark, non-existent or maybe just away on siesta, on fiesta, or on a romantic junket with his girlfriend. In one story, God is shut away with his favourite book, Frankenstein.

As for the afterlife, it offers all kinds of chances: to be another creature; to be all ages simultaneously; to live your life again but backwards. It's seldom, alas, a lot of fun.

In one story we programme computers to keep sending out-of-office replies after our death, until there is nothing left "but a society of emails zipping back and forth under silent satellites, orbiting a soundless planet". It could almost happen.

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