There is a developing genre called the New Weird, marked by strange civilizations, hallucinatory writing, and a general feeling of “what the hell did I just read?” Randal Graham’s Afterlife Crisis is weird, even if it’s not New Weird. I don’t have a genre label for the kinds of fiction that Graham, Tom Holt, and a scant handful of others write. Graham’s novel, like others in this as yet unnamed genre, is marked by hilariously erudite verbosity; references to literature, myth, science, art, history, psychology, and all the rest of the library; and a determined willingness to play with the laws of reality. I adore these novels. Their loopy wordiness is a pure delight for my bookish soul.
Afterlife Crisis is the sequel to Beforelife, which I have not read. Given how forgetfulness is a running them in Afterlife Crisis and its general weirdness, I wouldn’t say that reading Beforelife is an absolute necessity. I was able to get along just fine. That said, I want more of Graham’s bizarre version of the afterlife and definitely plan to read Beforelife.
Afterlife Crisis follows the adventures of Rhinnick Feynman as he gets wrapped up in other people’s adventures to change Detroit, an afterlife full of people who think that the beforelife is a mental illness and where teleportation is possible. At least, it was possible. Rhinnick Feynman is part way through his search for Isaac Newton at the behest of Abe, the god of Detroit—see what I mean about weirdness?—when the teleportation system suddenly disappears and he has to take a bus to the university. This is probably the most comprehensible part of the plot. It just gets goofier from there.
Rhinnick’s internal monologue made it easy to be a passenger in Detroit. He talks like a post-corporeal Bertie Wooster and I couldn’t get enough of it. Graham’s writing is pitch-perfect Wodehouse. Even though the story twisted and turned all over the place, I was often laughing at Rhinnick’s phrasing. I also loved his (after)world view. Rhinnick firmly believes that the reality all the characters find themselves in is a story written by a great Author who occasionally revises as they go. This belief gives Rhinnick a very laissez faire attitude to things, which also helped the oddities go down more easily.
I really enjoyed this book. I strongly recommend it for readers who also love the gentler side of Weird, especially when it comes with a couple of thesauri worth of words.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.