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- Robert Malone – the 57-year-old CEO of Audrey’s Corporation who opts to be cryonically preserved when he learns he’s dying from cancer
- Amanda Litrell – Robert’s gold digging wife and the original Audrey’s model
- Robert Malone Jr. – Robert’s eldest child whom Amanda has spoiled to the point that he never takes responsibility for his actions
- Rachel Malone – Robert’s independent and industrious daughter who takes over Audrey’s when Robert “dies”
- Maggie Nelson – a woman who has also been cryonically preserved and helps Robert transition from life to the in-between
- Suzanne – a woman who dies in a car accident but can’t cross over; she remains Robert’s companion until he’s scheduled to be revived
Robert Malone is dying from cancer. But instead of making funeral arrangements, he’s preparing to be cryonically preserved, or frozen in liquid nitrogen. He’s hoping that with advances in nanotechnology, he’ll wake up in a hundred years or so, good as new. However, Robert won’t be in a deep sleep during all that time like he thought he would be. Although he’s invisible to living people, he can interact with others like him, as well as dead people who haven’t crossed over yet.
For once in his life, Robert is free to do as he pleases. The problem is he hasn’t done anything his whole life but work to make Audrey’s a successful clothing store chain. He’s never really cared for his family or had the urge to travel to exotic places. But with the help of his new friends, he starts enjoying life while stuck in limbo. Scientific breakthroughs though mean he’ll be returning to the living world much sooner than expected. And Robert’s not too thrilled about coming back anymore.
“The Ups and Downs of Being Dead” makes for an intriguing, oftentimes hilarious, read about life post-death. Cryonic preservation might sound like something out of a sci-fi book, but it does exist, which makes the premise of the story all the more fascinating to imagine being true. Cornelius envisions a future where people choose to die of their own free will; compatibility tests replace dating; and children are awarded though court petition only. It follows in the tradition of classics like “1984,” “Brave New World” and “The Giver,” all texts which hint at the genetic and social engineering of humans.
The creepy part? The aforementioned things seem like part of a far-fetched vision, but they already exist to a certain extent in our society today. This puts the interpersonal relationships between the characters into greater focus, designed to remind readers not to take for granted those daily interactions which give life meaning. Cornelius drives this point home through Robert’s journey which is the cornerstone of the novel. In the beginning we meet someone whose life only revolves around work and business. By the end, we’re left with a thoughtful and caring human being who has finally started to live life and appreciate what he never had time for.
“The Ups and Downs of Being Dead” is an exciting page-turner that forces you to reevaluate your place in a rapidly changing world. An entertaining read that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others.
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