In 2020, I read the apocalyptic horror novel The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier, published by Pantheon Books in 2006. The story follows Laura researching the corporate impact of Coca-Cola on the environment (brought to you by Coca-Cola). However, several characters make the narrative. Most of these characters are deceased, hints the name.
Through incompetence, a virus thins out humanity. I read this novel during the first stages of Covid-19, which added uncomfortable parallels to the usual reading experience.
If you like the struggle to exist set in an apocalyptic horror, this novel might be for you. However, I have some points…
I wasn’t a fan of the afterlife, an essential part of the reader’s experience. No Echo Park or Statue of Liberty provides necessary life to the world of the dead. I could believe that the commonality reflects the commercialized world of the living, but I must point out a lack of character in the urban-afterlife. A missed opportunity, if I may say.
In terms of horror, the Covid-19 experience adds an unsettling realness to the novel. There is dread besides this eerie parallel, of course. Brockmeier understands the weight of a spreading virus is the struggle to connect with people and understand the bleak future to come. The characters add layers to the story and build the dread of the virus as it spreads. With a bleak tone similar to The Road, I commend Kevin Brockmeier’s apocalypse.
(3 / 5)
I recommend this book to apocalyptic horror fans who don’t mind the Covid-19 parallels. It is because the novel foreshadowed the world we now collectively experience that the horror hits the mark.
Without the reality of Covid-19, however, the horror of the novel would be weaker. The Brief History of the Dead is a complicated 3 Cthulhus out of 5. The relevant times bring it closer to a 4, but that unexplored rural-afterlife lingers in the back of my mind.