Jusyp’s debut novel offers a trippy tour through an extraterrestrial afterlife.
Philip, Candace, Bongo and Clara, undergraduates at Canada’s York University, are driving out of town for some end-of-semester rest and relaxation. George and Ben are chess enthusiasts heading home after a tournament. When the two cars collide at an intersection on the outskirts of Toronto, four of the six passengers die, but George and Philip are catapulted to OTMA 82, an interstellar limbo for the seemingly departed who, as it turns out, aren’t quite dead. Jusyp’s ambitious novel grapples with the age-old question of what happens when we pass on, but it offers some wild new answers. It turns out that death frequently leads to resurrection—not only for humans but for sentient beings all over the universe. The afterlife is, first and foremost, a time of personal reflection, intellectual growth and eventually, final judgment. As the author leads readers on this idiosyncratic journey, he proves to be a skilled and inventive storyteller. This inventiveness, however, is both a strength and a weakness. The novel feels genuinely original: Every time readers feel Jusyp might be drifting toward cliché or convention, he veers off into new ideas. However, because his world is so totally new, he’s forced to load his book with back-breaking amounts of exposition. As a result, chapters occasionally devolve into tedious Q-and-A sessions. Indeed, his characters constantly ask questions—sometimes of themselves, sometimes of the celestial emissaries that serve as their guides. “Was I in a mechanical body or device of some kind?” “[H]ow many of us from Earth are on OTMA 82 today?” “Are all of us on OTMA 82 supposed to be omniscient?” As the queries pile up, the plot slows to a crawl. When the pace picks back up, on the other hand, Jusyp’s novel is an enthralling ride.
A daring cross between Dante and Isaac Asimov that, at its best, pays off handsomely.