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Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles
Merrie Destefano
HarperCollins Eos, 322 pages

Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles
Merrie Destefano
Merrie Destefano left a 9-to-5 desk job as a magazine editor to become a full-time novelist and freelance editor. With twenty years' experience in publishing, her background includes editor of Victorian Homes magazine and founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine. She lives in Southern California with her family.

Merrie Destefano Website
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A review by Michael M Jones

Death isn't the end anymore. Play your cards right, be willing to abandon your old life, and you can be resurrected, courtesy of Fresh Start's secret cloning process. If you're really lucky, you might get as many as nine lives before things break down to the point of systems failure. Chaz Dominguez is a Babysitter in New Orleans, tasked with protecting and watching over recent resurrectees for the first week of their new lives, until they're settled in and can take care of themselves. His newest case is Angelique, a mysterious blonde beauty. Business as usual: keep her safe from predators, kidnappers, and so on.

It's never that simple. Trouble from Angelique's past has surfaced, and is stalking her -- despite the system set up to enforce anonymity and secrecy. Now Chaz has to use every trick in his book to protect Angelique, even though it looks like his enemy is closer to home than he ever expected. Worse still, the resurrection process is failing at an increased rate, with Three-, Four-, Five- and Six-Timers all keeling over in unprecedented numbers. But if cloned immortality is failing, what is Chaz to do with rumors of true immortality being developed?

Afterlife is an odd book. For one, its cover does it a grave disservice. Look at it casually, you see a blonde woman and a dog, invoking any number of recent paranormal romances and urban fantasies. Skim the book, you might still assume this was a supernatural adventure. The truth is, it's a highly philosophical, tautly written science fiction story dealing with cloning, immortality, faith, and science gone wrong. That woman on the cover, and her dog? Not as central as you'd expect, given how much of this is from Chaz's point of view. They play their parts, but it's not what you'd assume.

Between the high concept, frequent point of view shifts, tense and tone changes, and ambitious subject matter, this is a much more daring, experimental, and occasionally off-kilter book than I'd anticipated. It's good, though I found certain passages, those narrated by a certain nonhuman character, to be hard to understand and easy to skim over. I was never really emotionally invested in the characters or their interwoven stories, as the techniques used to weave it all together kept me feeling like an outsider. As science fiction goes, this was an intriguing, yet not entirely successful, stab at something different. A welcome change, if not exactly what I expected. However, it's sure to appeal to readers in search of a story which doesn't necessarily play it safe. (And for something called The Resurrection Chronicles, the ending made this feel like a stand-alone.)

Copyright © 2011 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.

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