A surefire idea of ​​the afterlife when you’re dead isn’t so good

The fresh dead are given new life, but are still mortal. They wake up in rude health with new teeth and old traumas – including memories of their deaths. From there, the process of aging and physical decline begins again. People are still aging and getting hungry and horny and depressed and having to work dead end jobs to make ends meet.

In death as in life, money is a problem for Angus, especially after he becomes addicted to an expensive black market service that allows the dead to travel back to their former lives and haunt loved ones. This allows him to watch helplessly as Gracie moves on with her life, raising his child and falling in love with his usurper, Owen.

Angus finds himself a laborer in “a provincial outpost between two medium-sized cities” where resources are scarce and infrastructure creaks with the ever-growing influx of dead. When a viral apocalypse begins killing millions on Earth, it sparks a refugee crisis in the afterlife.

The remaining dead take increasingly draconian measures to prevent overpopulation. They propose banning newcomers – “sealing the light at the end of the tunnel” – and using slogans straight out of Australia’s border security discourse. The newly deceased “form ghettos and will not assimilate” and threaten the way of life of the dead.

It is sadly ironic that Australia’s treatment of refugees, which Toltz ridiculed in his Booker-listed 2008 blockbuster fraction of the whole is still ripe for satire – but the irony runs through this book. His ambitions are huge; Dostojewskij in his inventory of social inequality – and satirical to the point of compulsion. She owes as much to the borsch belt comedians as to the Russian literary giants.

Toltz has a lot to say, and something as trivial as death won’t stop his characters from speaking. Angus, Gracie, and a supporting cast of cartoons talk (to each other, to themselves) in spontaneous one-liners.

These range from Swift’s social critique, “Homeowners … always renovate and check interest rates vigilantly because they thought they were the temperature of a fevered child” and Wilde’s snark, “I think the only thing worse than being sexually objectified is.” not to be sexually objectified”. to playful aphorisms “Sentience is condemned to life”.

The quips don’t let up, save for a few moments of exquisite sadness nestling in the chaos, for nearly 400 pages. Nothing works here is shaggy, relentless, but smart as hell, and — if you have a high tolerance for schtick — deeply rewarding.

Steve Toltz is a guest at the Melbourne Writers Festival. mwf.com.au Age is the media partner of the festival.

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https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/a-dead-good-vision-of-the-afterlife-when-being-dead-is-not-so-good-20220812-p5b9i5.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture A surefire idea of ​​the afterlife when you’re dead isn’t so good

Jaclyn Diaz

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