Sunday, February 16, 2014

Book Review: The Afterlife Series by Mur Lafferty

The Afterlife Series by Mur Lafferty


Kate and Daniel's unexpected deaths in a car accident were only the beginning of their adventures. In the afterlife, they quickly tire of Heaven and become Travelers, the lucky few who have passports to explore the many realms of the world after death. The journey takes them through a search for lost souls, imprisoned gods, the apocalypse and creation of new worlds, and just what it means to be divine.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from Since this is a 5-book series, I will actually be posting the summaries for each book separately. There may be spoilers. If you don't want them, please just move on down to the "Context" section of my review. I've tried to remain spoiler-less in my reviewing.

What if you died and went to Heaven and it wasn't all that? What if it was flat-out boring?

Would you leave?

After their deaths, best friends Kate and Daniel learn that Heaven is not their cup of tea, so to speak. Roads connect the afterlives of all religions, including those from other times and even other species.

But turmoil keeps churning back on Earth, and Kate and Daniel discover secrets between themselves, and secrets about the world they left, and they begin to wonder if their "aimless" wandering is part of a much bigger design.

Kate and Daniel are reunited, but they have to return to their duties in traveling the afterlife. There are stolen souls suffering without cause in Hell, and only they can help. Kate is back in her corporeal body, but is distracted by her recent brush with the divine. Daniel carries the magic of an old god, the sword of a death goddess, as well a grudge against the deity who tricked him into losing nearly everything.

Can Kate and Daniel - not to mention the cosmos - handle everything the Afterlife throws at them?

Every religion says the beginning of the new world starts after the end of the old. So now what?

Recently deceased friends Kate and Daniel have been promoted, and are now in charge of renewing the Earth for a New Age. However they haven't had a lot of training in their new jobs, they have several forces against them, and their own friendship is on the rocks as their attempts to work together makes things even worse.

Daniel is exiled and the new Earth is in trouble. In his efforts to restore Kate, a new world is born out of the Wasteland and the two have to make their way in it. The issue of the besieged Heaven and Earth are never far from their minds as they explore this odd new world.

The time has come to free the captured gods of this new world and to save Heaven and Earth from the forces of Chaos. Kate and Daniel know they have a big mess to clean up, and hope that their secrets never come out. But their companions are gods, and possess powers that may allow them to learn how much of the troubles of the world were caused by Kate and Daniel themselves.


Have you ever stopped to consider what you might do if you got bored with Heaven, or what if all the religions were true and there were dozens of "heavens" and "hells"? What if you became a god? This series explores all those possibilities in an amalgam of mythology, belief systems, exploration, and questions of faith and omniscience. Being a mythology nerd myself, I was intrigued with the concept of this series, which led me to just purchase all five books at once for my Kindle.

Please keep in mind that this series proves completely neutral when it comes to religion. It doesn't tout one over the other or claim that there is any one, true religion. It does, however, skew the perceptions of many gods and faith systems through the storytelling. If you're looking for a treatise on what (if anything) comes after death, you're looking in the wrong place. These are STORIES and are meant for entertainment, not to challenge or support any particular dogma.


If there is one thing I can say about Mur Lafferty, it's that she has some kick-ass ideas for settings and plots. Her writing style is simple and accessible. It doesn't take constant references to a dictionary or a glossary of terms in the back of her novels to make sense out of them. But they're not overly simplistic, either. Her writing style is comfortable, and that makes reading her a pleasure. I'm not saying I don't want to think when I read, but her style allows me to think about the plot and the characters rather than looking at a sentence and having to think to figure out exactly what's being said here.

She's really good at hiding things in plain sight, too. I repeatedly had those "how did I miss that?!" moments, where I realized a plot question had an answer that had been dangling in front of me for five chapters. Of course, it's revealed to the characters and the reader at the same time, and that keeps the reader from feeling dumb or thick for not seeing it right away. All in all, I do enjoy Laffery's writing style and the premises of what I've read of hers, and that includes the Afterlife Series.

My Thoughts

Lafferty does an exemplary job of remaining neutral to religion very early on. In the first book, Christian Heaven, Elysium, Dog Heaven, and other post-life paradises are explored. There are no claims that any one is right or wrong. Throughout the series, there is never that clash of what religion is right or wrong, and that in itself is refreshing. This sort of subject matter could make it very easy for things to get preachy, and Lafferty has completely sidestepped that in favor of telling an intriguing story.

Even so, I feel like there was so much more that could have been developed in these books. There was much more that could be explored, even without wandering from the plot. I wanted more or just about everything. In reading these books, I felt like I'd been served a meal that was tasty, but I only got one bite of each dish, and it just was not enough. I would love to see this expanded. Very expanded.

That said, I wasn't as well drawn into the story as I thought I would be. I really think that was because of pacing. The pacing was my biggest issue with this series. Most of the time, I felt like things were racing along, and not in a good way. Don't get me wrong, but I like action. When I say things happened too fast, I mean that there would be some wrenching twist or change in a single sentence, and then it was over. Important events weren't given the attention they should have been, and I really felt like a lot of plot points that needed say, a paragraph to happen, only took a few words. It felt rushed, like when you accidentally set your morning alarm for a half-hour later than you meant to, and now you're scrambling to get to work on time. I felt like it work counterintuitively to the urgency of the story by overexaggerating it. As a reader, I like being kept off balance or on the edge of my seat, but this series had me so overbalanced I was like to topple over.

Would I Recommend This Book? Yes and no. We're talking about a series of five novellas here, all fairly short. They're quick reads, so that's a plus. Even so, I'm hesitant to recommend them. They felt underdeveloped and the pacing was a problem for me. I would recommend them for the novelty and creativity of the content, but this isn't the best of what I've read of Lafferty's work. I give the whole series a religion-reforming 2.5 ouf of 5 stars.

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