Sum: Tales from the Afterlives

  • by David Eagleman
  • Narrated by Gillian Anderson, Emily Blunt, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, David Eagleman, Noel Fielding, Stephen Fry
  • 2 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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What the Critics Say

"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Astonishing fiction from a brilliant scientist

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.
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- Jamie Milton Freestone

An odd idea, not well carried out

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Hard to say - people with more of a taste for fantasy, maybe.


What could David Eagleman have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Far fewer pieces, with each one much more thoroughly worked out.


Which scene was your favorite?

None


You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Not for me - I found it thoroughly dull.


Any additional comments?

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.

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- Peter

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-31-2010
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd