Book review: The Afterlife Revolution

Afterlife RevolutionAfterlife Revolution by Whitley Strieber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In which I once again dive into the weird yet strangely fascinating world of Whitley Strieber.

Strieber was originally known as a horror author known for books like The Hunger and The Wolfen. He branched out with a pair of novels in the mid-80s that posed “What if?” scenarios regarding a limited nuclear war and the destruction of the environment. Both are still compelling reads today, and Warday especially presents a chillingly authentic take on how devastating a “small” nuclear exchange would be.

Then came 1985’s Communion, in which Strieber relates experiences with what he calls “visitors” (not aliens) to his cabin in upstate New York, the now infamous grays. Unlike the pseudo-documentary style of Warday and Nature’s End, Communion is presented as fact, events that actually happened to Strieber, his family and others around him.

Some people dismiss this as a con, but it strikes me as too detailed and comprehensive to be the book equivalent of a snake oil salesman. I’ve seen people recount experiences with aliens and there is a strong sense of delusion in the way they present their stories, with obvious gaps and little evidence to suggest anything happened other than in the alleged victims’ minds. And one could claim the same here, that Strieber is similarly deluded, that he is simply not well. But if you’ve read the narrative he’s formed over the last 30 years it is impossible to dismiss everything without assuming a level of paranoia about all the others going in with him on the scam.

All of this is a long way of saying Strieber reports a lot of weird shit happening to him, and who am I to tell him it didn’t? I think what we know of the world and the universe is a tiny slice of a very thick wedge, and as advanced as we think we are with our internet-connected refrigerators and smart cars that almost never crash, the stuff we don’t know towers over what we do.

And that is a slightly-less longer way of saying I’m willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt when it comes to weird shit, especially if they can present their case with humility, at least some circumstantial evidence, and make it interesting, too.

The Afterlife Revolution posits one thing: that when we die, the physical body ends, but the soul–or whatever you want to call it–persists, leaving the body and returning to a non-physical realm where it exists both as a separate thing and also as part of a giant consciousness that encompasses the entire universe. Anne Strieber describes it as “universal love” during her many chats with her husband Whitley.

Anne Strieber died in August of 2015.

Since then Whitley Strieber claims he has been contacted by her and the book is in large part a dialogue between himself and his late wife, as she tries to answer his questions about what lies beyond the end of life. Mixed in with this is a somewhat urgent need to create a “bridge” to better facilitate communication between the living and the not-so-living because the world is on the brink of catastrophic change. For those who have read Strieber’s other books, this will be familiar, as he has long been warning of cataclysmic climate change and the immense toll it will take on humanity–usually estimating billions dead and humanity possibly extinguished altogether.

By bridging the gap between the living and the dead, it is suggested we would be able to at least mitigate the worst of the effects and humanity would survive, albeit probably not with internet-connected refrigerators. At least not for awhile. There is talk of how hard it is for the dead to appear before the living due to being so much lighter and faster and existing in a different space, which accounts for why they prefer making loud noises and being spooky. Apparently taking any sort of “physical” form is very demanding. Anne also talks about how some of the post-living are denser that others and that their souls sink instead of rising (to where is never really specified, though it’s suggested that “bad” people get reincarnated and keep getting sent back until they straighten out).

Strieber provides the circumstantial evidence, some of it in the form of coincidences (asking for a sign of Anne’s presence, then seeing something shortly after that seems “planted” by her, mixed in with a few out of body experiences, strange sightings and yes, loud noises. He freely admits there is no way to prove any of it, but the scenarios involving other people suggest that if this were a fraud, it’s one in which he has conscripted quite a few others.

In the end I was–being the logical, rational, but open-minded guy I like to think I am–intrigued by the ideas presented. There is a strong spiritual element throughout the book, but it’s not tied to a specific religion, it’s offered up more as an explanation of why these religions came into being, along with stories that persist across cultures, like a great flood. I admit I like the idea that there may be something beyond the physical, if only because a non-physical version of me would probably have nicer teeth. Or wouldn’t need them. I begin thinking in practical terms before long–how would an eternal non-physical entity keep itself entertained or interested? What would it do? How would it have fun? But that’s just me sitting here with a head cold not being able to fully comprehend questions of the universe.

I still like the idea, though. And if nothing else, The Afterlife Revolution is a sweet, and touching encapsulation of the life of a loving couple.

If you are absolutely sure that once we are dead, that’s it, this book will not convince you otherwise. You may even shout out, “Bah!” and toss it aside. But if you’re willing to at least entertain the notion that there is some other realm we lowly humans can inhabit after we expire, The Afterlife Revolution presents some interesting ideas on what it might be like, and frames it as a kind of thriller in which the dead and the living better learn how to talk to each other–and soon.

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