So, You’ve Died. Now What?

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So, You’ve Died. Now What?

Recently I was watching Beetlejuice, and I found the way death was handled to be a fascinating idea. Initially the Maitland family are unaware that they’re even dead. Nobody tells them. They’re just given a handbook, and limited number of visits with a caseworker to get things figured out as they hang out in their home.

Shortly after this, I encountered the book Afterlife Diet, which is set in a heaven for overweight people. It was then that I surrendered to the inevitable and decided to write a list about characters who are dead, but still living a life of one kind or another. Some of these books are set in some form of eternal reward, some are in a purgatory of sorts, and some feature characters who are still knocking around our world. Maybe one of them is your neighbor.
 
The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
In this fascinating idea for a novel, there is a city where the dead remain as long as someone living remembers them. Some pass through the city more quickly than others. Celebrities and those who have a landmark on Earth named after them tend to linger in the city longer than others. Nobody knows where you go when you leave the city, but it’s starting to happen more and more often.
 
God bless you, Dr. Kevorkian by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut inserts himself into the story as a reporter on the afterlife. With the help of Jack Kevorkian, he travels down a bright tunnel to the pearly gates, and interviews the deceased. Subjects include Mary Shelley, Isaac Asimov and Shakespeare. At the end of each session, Vonnegut is revived so he can share with us the interview he collected.
 
Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire
Jenna, who is dead, volunteers with a suicide prevention hotline. She died before her appointed time, so she has to work off the remainder of her promised life span. But now something is coming for the ghosts of New York; something that can force them to do it’s bidding. Jenna is not interested in doing anyone’s bidding.
 
Afterlife Diet by Daniel Pinkwater
Here we have a murder mystery set in heaven. Not regular heaven, but fat heaven. This is the heaven for the “metabolically different.” An editor who is dead ponders his life and his demise -- the latter of which he can’t quite figure out.
 
The Sleep Garden by Jim Krusoe
There is an underground apartment building at the edge of town called The Burrow. Its inhabitants are twilight souls -- people who have left, but not yet gone. None of the five inhabitants know why they are there, or what comes next. This novel tells their story, as well as the story of others who live around the Burrow. It’s a quiet book, full of mystery. And much like life, this book won’t answer all your questions. Are the inhabitants dead, alive, or something else? Even they don’t know.