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Category: Science Fiction
Tags: cryogenics, cryonics, ghosts
Author: Marsha Cornelius
Fifty-seven year old Robert Malone is the CEO of a successful clothing store chain and married to a former model. When his doctor tells him he is dying of cancer, he refuses to go quietly. Instead of death, Robert chooses cryonics. He knows it’s a long shot. His frozen body will be stored in liquid nitrogen for the next seventy-five years, and then he’ll wake up in the future. Maybe. If technology figures out a way to bring him back. He’s willing to take that gamble. What he doesn’t realize is that he won’t lie in some dreamless state all that time. His soul is very much awake, and free to move about, just like the others who were frozen before him. He discovers that he can ride in the cockpit with the pilots, but he can’t turn the page of a magazine. He can sit in the oval office with the president, but he can’t prevent a child from dashing in front of a car. He can’t work, or eat, or sleep. These obstacles make it difficult to fall in love, and virtually impossible to reconcile with the living. Over the next several decades, Robert Malone will have plenty of time to learn The Ups and Downs of Being Dead.
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Reviewed by Richard Bunning
November 6, 2014
This is a very inventive and truly speculative science fiction drama, which kept me interested from page one to the final word. The plot works very well, provided of course one is prepared to temporarily take on-board the very speculative premise. The idea that one may be able to exist, be a ghost, between the realm of the living and the kingdom of God or oblivion, works well enough for me. Cornelius has some unusual “explanations” for some behaviours that actually fit well to many theories about the subconscious and psychotic illness. You will be missing the enjoyment of a great story if you can’t embrace the idea that out of body experiences may be portends of the future, rather than just the dying illusions of oxygen starved minds. The revival of tissues from cryogenic suspension has already been shown to work. It may not be long before it is possible to thaw out and give back life to once dead human.
The question of how a mind, a soul, detached from the physical world, might influence and be influenced the living, is the central premise. We all face situations we wish we could intervene to change, when all we can do is watch. We find ourselves as helpless bystanders, constrained from what we wish to do. Imagine an extreme of this, actually watching from beyond the grave your partner sleeping with your best friend, and then being murdered. In this case we are watching through Robert, after his physical body has been preserved.
Cornelius’s craft is sound enough that one is easily drawn into the flow, almost forgetting that one is reading. There almost always are a few sentences that need reading twice, but I found very few. My only qualm with the book was a bit of irritation with the mention of a million locations that one or other of the dead visited without really advancing the plot. So perhaps the book was five percent longer than necessary. I am sure that plenty of people, especially ones familiar with some of the locations, would totally disagree with this view. The point was to explain how a ghost could overcome the tedium of years of existence without being a physical influence. I just didn’t need quite so much of it to get the point.
The climax was one that I really hadn’t predicted, even though it logical fitted. That is, logically enough within the constraints of this fiction. I actually felt that the author wasn’t sure until very late how things might end either, not that there is anything wrong with that. I like the feel that I am in an ongoing story rather than working through a pre-solved mathematical problem.
If I find myself dead but not gone I must be careful to avoid viewing those I love. That I suspect would be almost as hard on most of us as it was on Robert. I must do my best to leave a positive legacy, or none at all. Now then, I wonder what I should do about . . . If only I didn’t so hate the idea of being frozen . . .