The Things We Learn When We're Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

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The Things We Learn When We're Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A clever and emotional journey from Death, through life, aboard a spaceship known as HVN. Regular fiction meets Science Fiction in this compelling read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: January 2017
Publisher: Accent Press
ISBN: 978-1786150356

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On the way to a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. Waking up in what appears to be a hospital, but a hospital in which wine is served for supper, everyone avoids her questions, and her nurse looks suspiciously like Sean Connery, it soon transpires that Lorna is in Heaven, or, at least, on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. At first Lorna can remember nothing, but as her memories return – some good, some bad, she realises that she has a decision to make, and that maybe, she needs to find a way home…

Charlie Laidlaw is an author and marketing consultant from Edinburgh, and The Things We Learn When We're Dead is his second book. It's a rather compelling blend of both the fanciful and the mundane, and Laidlaw has a real grasp for creating a fully three dimensional lead character in the shape of Lorna. She's fascinating – intriguing enough to maintain the reader's interest for a whole book, but real enough to feel like someone you know or have known. She's flawed, funny, damaged, and wholly believable, and it's a pleasure to spend 300 odd pages in her company.

The plot itself is a strange beast – it veers from fantastical science fiction concepts to Lorna's life in North Berwick, and the change between the two can seem rather abrupt. However, it makes perfect sense plot wise, and makes for a very fun read indeed, as the otherworldliness of HVN is contrasted with the everyday of Lorna's earlier life. The choice to have everyone in HVN resemble a famous person is rather fun too – it makes the book an incredibly visual experience, given that Lorna spends a lot of time wandering around with a woman resembling Kate Winslet, has drinks with Bill Clinton, and dances with Tony Blair. It allows for a real sense of fun, and also some satire to sneak in too. Whilst there is a lot of humour, Laidlaw doesn't hold back on the emotion either. Lorna has to deal with her death and the events that led up to them, and seeing her regain her memories is rather intriguing – knowing how Lorna's life ends from the off, it's hard not to be filled with a sense of doom, yet Laidlaw keeps a light and hopeful tone to the story, preventing it from becoming too gloomy. The overarching plot is clever, gripping and moving – it's hugely enjoyable to explore HVN with Lorna, and the characters of God, Irene and Suzie are exceptionally drawn too.

Clever and compelling, The Things We Learn When We're Dead takes the absurd humour of The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, combines it with a smattering of the emotion and pathos from a book like David Nicholl's One Day, with a little splash of The Wizard of Oz thrown in for good measure. Highly recommended – this book is hugely original and well worth a read. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy!

For further reading I'd recommend The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - The Nearly Definitive Edition by Douglas Adams. There's no doubt that The Things We Learn when We're Dead owes a debt to it, but they stand well on their own as funny, moving and surprisingly deep reflections on human life.

Buy The Things We Learn When We're Dead by Charlie Laidlaw at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Things We Learn When We're Dead by Charlie Laidlaw at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Things We Learn When We're Dead by Charlie Laidlaw at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Things We Learn When We're Dead by Charlie Laidlaw at Amazon.com.


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