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Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives    by David Eagleman order for
by David Eagleman
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Pantheon, 2009 (2009)
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* *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

There is one absolute certainty in this life and that is that we are all going to die, at some time. Battles, wars, and crusades have been waged and fought for days, years, and even centuries over what exactly happens when we shuffle off this mortal coil and ...

From David Eagleman, who heads the Laboratory of Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and is the founder of the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law, comes a unique and unusual book, Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives. With a strong cover quote from Philip Pullman, Sum presents forty What ifs? as Eagleman ponders the many possibilities of what might exist in the next life, if there is one. For some it would be a fantasy come true, for others a nightmare; a personal heaven, or a feared hell.

Eagleman approaches the book from a scientific point of view, analyzing each possible afterlife in an empirical way and weighing its validity: some entries are short, some are long; some have a lesson to teach, others incorporate a moral at the victim's expense. And what can the reader take from Sum? Don't expect to be convinced one way or another from Eagleman on whether there really is an afterlife. Rather, he offers a collection of entertaining stories that at the very least will stimulate the intellect into dreaming of another world.

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