Quick Review: AFTERLIFE by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer)

SakeyM-AfterlifeAn intriguing, cinematic action thriller

Between life and death lies an epic war, a relentless manhunt through two worlds… and an unforgettable love story.

The last thing FBI agent Will Brody remembers is the explosion — a thousand shards of glass surfing a lethal shock wave.

He wakes without a scratch.

The building is in ruins. His team is gone. Outside, Chicago is dark. Cars lie abandoned. No planes cross the sky. He’s relieved to spot other people — until he sees they’re carrying machetes.

Welcome to the afterlife.

Claire McCoy stands over the body of Will Brody. As head of an FBI task force, she hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. A terrorist has claimed eighteen lives and thrown the nation into panic.

Against this horror, something reckless and beautiful happened. She fell in love… with Will Brody.

But the line between life and death is narrower than any of us suspect — and all that matters to Will and Claire is getting back to each other.

I’ve been aware of Marcus Sakey’s work for many years, and have faithfully bought a fair number of his novels. For some strange reason, though, I keep forgetting I have them on my Kindle… I started to see many thriller authors whose work I very much enjoy sharing praise for Afterlife not so long ago, so I snapped it up and started reading right away. I was certainly an entertaining read.

The novel has a great premise, and Sakey gives readers a good tour of how this version of the universe works. As Brody and McCoy explore their new reality, and the new threats that present themselves, their ingrained, law enforcement-ideals never desert them. This has repercussions across the board, of course, but this is very much a novel about good-versus-evil. It’s not moralistic, nor is it heavy-handed with any messaging.

At the same time, there is one rather good reference to contemporary politics. For context: to kill someone in the afterlife that Brody finds himself post-explosion is to gain their… well, their life-force, basically. Their energy — it’s like getting a power-up in a video game, I suppose. Here’s how the narcotic, addictive effect of this power-boost is described at one point:

“… compared it to heroin. He now realized she’d been wrong. The first hit of heroin was the best a user ever got. Every subsequent one was a pursuit of a lost moment. It was a downward spiral. Money is a better analogy. Every dollar a person owned made it easier to claim another. Every dollar increased their options. The journey from poverty to middle class was far more difficult than from middle to upper. And for those addicted to wealth as its own reward, there would never be enough. Until you were Donald Trump, or the Koch brothers, and would do anything, crush anyone for your own benefit.”

It’s not difficult to see how the movie rights to Afterlife were snapped up: the novel is extremely cinematic in style and pacing. With Ron Howard attached, I can’t wait to see the movie version.

Sakey does a great job of painting a picture of the worlds in which his characters operate, as well as the characters themselves, and camera angles, framing, etc., come rather easily to mind. At the same time, though, it was perhaps too cinematic, in that it felt like certain aspects of the story were glossed over, sacrificed at the altar of pacing. The conclusion comes relatively quickly, given that it takes almost a quarter of the novel for the explosion mentioned in the synopsis to take place. Things start moving very quickly from that point, it’s true, but maybe they didn’t need to?

I feel like I would have liked a bit more development, but at the same time I can’t think of how the author could have done this without destroying the momentum. I certainly enjoyed reading it, and zipped through. Sakey’s prose is excellent throughout, with nary a wasted word nor unnecessary expositional detour. It’s very tightly plotted. Maybe, when it comes to sci-fi and urban fantasy, I’ve just become used to excessive exposition and info-dumping (which does usually irritate me), but in Afterlife Sakey’s gone just a tad too far in the opposite direction.

If you like your thrillers fast-paced, action-packed and with a sci-fi/supernatural twist, then Afterlife should suit quite nicely.


Afterlife if published by Thomas & Mercer in the UK and US.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

One thought on “Quick Review: AFTERLIFE by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer)

  1. Very well said. I enjoyed every page of it, yet understand your critique. I’m sure I’m going to love the movie.




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