After Death is an anthology of short stories investigating life after death. The anthology is introduced and edited by Eric J Guignard and includes 34 different tales.
Guignard also provides introductions for each of the individual stories. A short biography of each author is included at the end of their contribution.
Audra Phillips illustrates the collection, however the printing of the illustrations is quite low quality, which affects their impact (it is possible this is only the case in the review copies though). All of the stories deal with possible afterlives, however the following were my favourites (since the stories are very short it is not possible to avoid spoilers):
Andrew S Williams’s ‘Someone to Remember’ is about a man who has died and is refusing to board the ferry across the underworld to the realm beyond. He is waiting for his beloved to die and join him so they can travel together. During the story he is tricked and thrown into the River Lethe, which makes him forget his former life and his love. Rescued by the ferryman, the man has no choice but to cross the river, however the ferryman decides to let him become his partner so they can search for his beloved together. This story relies on Greek mythology to explore life after death.
Alvaro Rodriguez’s ‘Boy, 7’ is from the perspective of a kidnap victim bound in the trunk of his captor’s car as he flees the police. While the ending is slightly ambiguous, it appears most likely that the boy bled out before the police managed to free him and the final scene, involving caramel sundaes, occurs in Heaven. The “bad man” who kidnapped him becomes faceless and sinks to the ground where he is devoured by dogs, presumably in Hell. As such, this tale uses a traditional Catholic view of the afterlife.
Joe McKinney’s ‘Acclimation Package’ is set in the near future where the Lazarus Institute can revive people long after death. Dan Spencer was a cop in his mid-forties who died in 2013 and is now alive again’ but with the memories and experience of Heather Carter, a twenty-four year old neurology student due to be married next year…in 2035!
Dr Graham explains that he was put in cryogenic suspension after he was killed in the line of duty. He has been recently thawed and given an artificial heart. The memories of Carter turn out to be his “acclimation package” intended to prevent psychotic episodes in revived patients by teaching them about their new temporal environment. However, Spencer soon learns that he shouldn’t be able to recall Carter’s memories or have any “identity overlap” with his “donor.” If his doctors found out they would be one step closer to developing a method for full transference of a person’s consciousness into another person’s body, essentially making them immortal. As Spencer sees more of Carter’s past he realises she was further along in her research than she wants Dr Graham to know, and that she had enemies that are now after him. This story explores life after death in a cyberpunk reality.
With a wide variety of stories based on many different theories and beliefs about the afterlife After Death is a very interesting read. The tales are all quite short and easy to read so the book is suitable for people too busy to commit to a long novel. The sustained theme holds the anthology together very well and keeps the dark flavour. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the gothic and supernatural.