In this astounding book, David Eagleman entertains 40 fictional possibilities of life beyond death. With wit and humanity he asks the key questions about existence, hope, technology and love.
These stories are full of big ideas and bold imagination.This audiobook assembles a stellar cast of readers who bring the scenarios of SUM brilliantly alive: Gillian Anderson, Emily Blunt, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Jack Davenport, Lisa Dwan, David Eagleman, Noel Fielding, Kerry Fox, Stephen Fry, Clarke Peters, Lemn Sissay and Harriet Walter.
©2009 David Eagleman (P)2010 Canongate Audiobooks
"You will not read a more dazzling book this year." (Stephen Fry)
"SUM has the unaccountable, jaw-dropping quality of genius." (Observer)
"This delightful, thought-provoking little collection...will haunt the reader long after the last page has been turned." (Alexander McCall Smith)
"Elegant, surreal and philosophically questioning, each story from neuroscientist Eagleman offers an inventive, thought-provoking blend of science and romance." (Metro)
"SUM is terrific . . .The inventiveness, the clarity and wit of the prose and the calm air of moral understanding that pervades this book add up to something completely original." (Philip Pullman)
"Read SUM and be amazed." (Time)
"Witty, bright, sharp, and unexpected - as surprising a book as I've read for years. Every story is a new Heaven." (Brian Eno)
Everything about this audiobook is great. As a collection of stories Sum is unique and benefits from being written by a fiction virgin in neuroscientist David Eagleman. His work on the brain and personal responsibility, among other topics, has made him one of the most fascinating young non-fiction writers in the world. But such are his annoyingly numerous talents that he is able to produce a series of speculative shorts on the theme of the afterlife that is both artfully written and intellectually playful.The stories follow no particular stylistic or narrative tradition, which makes them free to be open-ended, thought-provoking, metaphysical aperitifs, if I can be so prolix.
Some of the scenarios dreamed up in this work will stay with you and for those who are worried, it's not overtly religious or even theistic at all really. It's kind of an agnostic's meditation on what the afterlife could be like and what we mean when we say "afterlife". I'm not at all religious and although I don't think any of the scenarios are literally possible, they are intellectually possible, inasmuch as they are primers for thinking about mortality, consciousness, time, religion, parallel universes, eternity, etc.
The cast of multiple narrators worked very well and they are all great readers, particularly the always lovely and eloquent Stephen Fry, the lachrymose Nick Cave and the sportive Emily Blunt. Eagleman himself even displays his skills as a reader on this recording ??? even more reason to resent this multitalented upstart.
Highly recommended as a fresh approach to short fiction, which works particularly well in the audiobook medium.
Hard to say - people with more of a taste for fantasy, maybe.
Far fewer pieces, with each one much more thoroughly worked out.
Not for me - I found it thoroughly dull.
I think this was a misconceived project of Eagleman's. He lacks, in my opinion, the imaginative vision to make it work. If he had chosen a just a few of his possible scenarios of the afterlife, and worked them out at the length of a long short story, or a novella, they might have worked although I don't think Eagleman's prose style is up to it - it's too laden with adjectives and adverbs. As it is, they are just snippets of ideas. For example, the last piece, the 'reverse life' idea from death to birth has been worked by several writers I can think of, and much more stylishly. Not one of these episodes really gripped my interest, and I skipped several of them, I'm sorry to say.
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction addict.
If, before I actually read this book, someone said to me that I was going to read a collection of novels about the afterlife, and that I would like it, I would have laughed. I don’t believe God exists and I don’t believe in an afterlife (at least not the afterlife people usually have in mind). Moreover, I generally don’t read novels. I read books because I want to learn something about the universe, not merely for pleasure.
So why did I read this book? Well, it was short, and more importantly, it was written by David Eagleman, the neuroscientist who wrote Incognito, which, in my opinion is one of the best popular neuroscience books I have read. Because I had read Incognito I also knew that Eagleman does not have a tendency to express strange beliefs. Rather, like myself, Eagleman at least appears to subscribe to philosophical materialism, i.e. he is not a dualist. In addition, Sum, has received rave reviews, so in the end I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a try… and I am very happy that I did.
The ambition of this book is not to provide an accurate scientific account of the likely scenarios that will take place when we eventually die, rather it is a collection of entirely hypothetical stories about what could happen in the afterlife. Some of them appear more likely than others, but almost all of them are in some way entertaining and above all, they are very thought provoking. Indeed I might even go as far as to say that it has made me consider the thought of an afterlife. Again I don’t mean the kind of afterlife where the soul escapes the body and travels to a bright peaceful heaven (and I guess that I would more likely end up in hell anyway), but some other form of afterlife. For example, in one novel in this book, you live on in the sense that a computer terminal continues to produce letters from you, answer emails, send happy birthday wishes, to your kin and to others, long after you actually died. This type of afterlife is entirely possible and even with my limited skills I could probably make my own computer act as if I was alive when I am dead (whether one would want this is a different question).
Another novel that is perhaps less plausible, but not as implausible as the biblical option, is that we actually live twice. The life that everyone live now is the first life which occurs when the universe is expanding. The second life comes when (or if), the universe contracts, causing time to go in the opposite direction. In your second life you are born out of the ground like an old man or woman and everyone will be crying and speaking about everything you are going to do in your life. The relationships in which you engage will often start with a fight and then gradually become more emotional and intense until it ends in an ecstatic sexual encounter, after which you will simply forget your partner and move on… I kind of doubt whether this will happen although according to some models of the universe a contraction phase is a possibility and since time is just a dimension of space it is not inconceivable that time will move in the opposite direction. In any case, just picturing your life in reverse is an interesting thought experiment.
These are just two examples out of a total of 40 short novels describing different scenarios that play out when we die. Because they were short and thought provoking I rarely lost interest. One of my favorite novels, in this collection, describes a future where you will be able to upload an exact replica of your brain onto a computer. This computer can then run any simulation you choose. Want to live like James Bond, with fast cars, and beautiful women, and frequent near death experiences? Not a problem. You will be able to live in this matrix for as long as the computer will run. Although in this particular scenario, the scientists were wrong about the soul (they just assumed that it would tag along, but it didn’t).
In short, this is a collection of fantastic, imaginative novels, that will make you giggle and make you think.
BRILLIANT! So thought provoking and sometimes horrifying. This collection is an absolute must and to boot it's wonderfully read
"A gem of a book not to be missed"
If you have things to do before the end of this year - downloading this book MUST be one of them. From the get go you know you are onto a winner - no matter what genre of book you prefer to read.. make this one for your collection. It is without a doubt simply brilliant.
ps I don't normally give reviews believing that people should be able to make up their own minds and would hate to rate something either good or bad as someone else may very well have a different view - BUT all that said, do yourself a good deed and get this book.
"Sum-thing to think about"
I love listening to these stories over and over again. Each one contains an idea or concept to mull over, which if dragged out into an entire book, would be lost on the reader. The short format of the stories and their playful nature stops them from ever becoming too heavy or too philosophical.
I recommend this as a book to listen and relisten to over and over again.
"Jaw droppingly brilliant"
This is one of the few occasions where I can use the word awesome and really mean it. Here are forty tales describing a possible afterlife and each one is a piece of perfection. This is impossible to take in in one sitting but this is great because I can't wait to listen to it all over again.
I absolutely love this! I have read this as well as listened to it three times. I love how easily digestible it is with most of the stories only lasting 2 or 3 minutes. However in that 2 or 3 minutes the most profound message can be communicated. Some have stayed with me more than others but I love them all. What an amazing mind David Eagleman has, I am envious of his talent and how he managed to create all these different Worlds and give them such life in the short space of time that each story lasts. Also with the all-star cast of narrators you will not be disappointed, I could not complain about any of them as they are brilliant.
"I love this book"
The all-star narrator line-up notwithstanding, I love this book and its varied takes on what might happen after we die. Spanning religious, spiritual, natural and atheist doctrine whilst managing to remain unpatronising and often amusing, these vignettes are a must for anyone who suffers the occasional existential crisis.
Having both read and listened to this book, I find that I prefer the audio version for the lovely range and variation of narration, although I'll admit that I love them both.
"A thoughtful and fun book"
A fantastic and thought provoking series of musings on potential versions of the Afterlife. Not to be taken as fact, but as a starting point for your own thoughts.
The diversity of each of the stories is incredible. The most imaginative collection of flash fiction I've ever read.
The array of narrators only adds to the diversity of the book. Each performance is as good as the last. Although, speaking of last, the final story was ever so slightly marred by the style in which Gilian Anderson chooses to narrate, she seemed to needlessly read it frustratingly slow.
I must've listened to this book, in one sitting, over two dozen times. And will continue to do so. Even after all these sessions with this book it still seems just as fresh as the first time I heard it.
The imagination behind each and every story is second to none, in my opinion. And to accumulate forty such stories blows my mind. An absolute gem of a book. Top marks!
"calm story telling"
loved it. i have listened to it in car or walking...also while going to sleep but not because it boring. its brilliantly engaging and gently thought provoking with humour moments and stops me thinking about work. i wake and listen to rest in morning while getting ready for work. ive listened to the stories several times. There are 39 stories but all very different. the readers are all great and complement each other.
"Wargwarn piff ting what's ur bbm pin"
Wargwarn is a very good idea to get a bus so I'm staying with my bae and I am a bit of a pain x x
"If I could recommend one book, this would be it"
This is easily the best book I've listened to and in the top of the books I've read. Extremely thought provoking.
By no means it claims the truth but in its multitude of possibilities it challenges the religion, our attitude to life and afterlife, to ourselves in relation to what or who might be more important than us and to how we live our lives. If anything this book of afterlife despite how many different stories it tells is a celebration of life as it is.
Don't walk by this one !
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