“An Unexpected Afterlife” by Dan Soper

A new twist on an old plot: what would you do if you woke up and found out you were dead? Would you take it as a chance to start over, or would you make a desperate attempt to get back what you lost? Moshe Karlin is given this opportunity, but despite the promise of the title, the results are pretty predictable. He decides to take up where he left off two years ago and everything falls apart from that point. If nothing goes wrong, where’s the fun?

The fascinating part of this novel, though, is not what happens, but where it happens. Soper has decided to set this spiritual rebirth in the world centre of resurrection, Jerusalem.

Thus the story is rendered much more entertaining and meaningful by the setting. Place this plotline in any culture in the world (many fantasy writers have) and it will work. But nowhere better than the rich historical, religious, and social background of the Jewish/Israeli culture of Jerusalem. Soper’s carefully delineated setting is closely integrated with the plotline and the spiritual, personal, and cultural conflict necessary for the story to work.

Characters are likewise modern, individualistic takeoffs on archetypes: the poor but honest rabbi, the mysterious amnesiac, the over-worked businessman who ignores his family, the biblical prophet who rides a Harley, and the amusing list goes on.

A minor flaw; although all of this makes for an entertaining read, there is a slight humorous distance set between the reader and any close emotional connection to the characters. We love how it’s all happening, but we don’t love anyone quite enough to be overly concerned how his or her fate turns out.

Recommended for all fantasy fans, Israelis, and modern Jewish scholars. The latter two might appreciate a different look from inside their culture. The first will just enjoy a fun read.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

About the Author: Gordon Long

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