Following the success of his 2015 short-story collection, Hall of Small Mammals, Thomas Pierce invites readers into the life of former dead man Jim Byrd with The Afterlives. Pierce’s novel is part Gothic mystery, part comedy ghost story, and wholly memorable.
The Afterlives centers on Jim, the recipient of a game-changing pacemaker that connects to a mobile app to allow him to watch his heart beat in real time. Knowing that every beat could be his last, Jim feels conflicted. When he died, briefly, he didn’t see anything on the other side, not even any conclusive evidence that there is another side in the first place. With nothing to fear, or to look forward to, in death, Jim has developed a strange relationship with the subject. When his work as a loan officer takes him to a possibly haunted restaurant with connections to a reclusive physicist, Jim starts to pursue answers to his biggest questions about life and what comes after.
Scenes from the haunted Mexican restaurant — a private residence, once upon a time — make up the Gothic-inspired portions of Pierce’s novel. Ghost scenes in The Afterlives are truly haunting. There’s the staircase leading up to the unused second floor, where many feel a spectral force attempt to push them to their doom, but it pales in comparison to the house’s most frightening, recurring image: that of a dog on fire.
The Afterlives is an underappreciated debut effort from Pierce. As a genre-bending novel that deftly blends horror, comedy, and science fiction, it’s one of a kind.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.
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Image credit: Jordon Conner