An average Joe finds out there is life after death—though he’s the only one who seems to know it.
Ian Brown is dead. After slipping and falling onto some about-to-be-occupied train tracks, he experiences the curious sensation of being tumbled through water; when he comes to, he is naked on a riverbank with a beautiful woman smiling down at him. This is Tonto Choudhury, and she is his guide through Detroit. Unlike the Detroit readers know, this Detroit is the afterlife: home to immortal souls who have yet to be born. According to Tonto, Ian is a new soul waiting to be embodied, and she insists that his belief that he had a life, a wife, and a messy death in Canada is just a “Beforelife Delusion.” But when Ian is placed in a hospice for others with his condition, his roommate—a British rogue called Rhinnick—and a motley cast of characters including no less than six Napoleons only deepen his conviction that his former life on Earth was very real. This conviction makes him a danger to the equilibrium of Detroit, and those at the highest levels of power—including the crack assassin Socrates—are determined to cure him of his Beforelife Delusion once and for all. Debut novelist and law professor Graham has hit upon a clever and fruitful concept—at 500-plus pages, he has plenty of time to worldbuild, and he is particularly interested in the granular details of the nefarious Detroit government. But too much of the book’s length is Graham reaching for jokes of the jolly-uncle variety (Models are skinny! Canadians are polite!), and one can’t help but feel that a taut, madcap thriller lurks underneath the shaggy exterior.
A promising premise in need of a good haircut.