"Known Afterlife" by Trey Copeland is an interesting blend of fantasy and science fiction with a little spiritual exploration included. The novel follows two separate narratives; the first of these is focused on Steffor, a Guardian who fights to ensure the protection of his arboreal world known simply as The Provider. The second narrative is based around Stalling, a powerful businessman on the planet Antium who has dedicated his entire commercial empire to trying to break the control of the all powerful Church of Salvation that he feels is stifling and limiting the people.
These two very different plotlines form part of an enjoyable ride that takes the reader back and forth between a futuristic world of technology and corruption to a world of fantasy, full of strange creatures, magical powers and a strong link between people and nature. At times it can be hard to understand how these two storylines could ever come together but Copeland does a good job at the end with the inevitable and intriguing merger. I have to admit that by half way through the novel I had begun to guess how and why these two stories were linked but I still enjoyed the final reveal none the less.
The overall pacing and originality of the story kept me hooked from the start to the finish although I have to admit that the jumping between storylines did get a little bit irritating at times. This was mainly because I would be getting engrossed in where one of the plots was going, only for the story to then switch onto the other plotline and so on. Maybe if the transitions were a bit smoother it would have been easier to accept but it did at times really break up the flow.
One of the novel's elements that really interested me was the manner in which both worlds showed a rather different aspect of religion. On The Provider, the elements of faith, love and belief really drove the people on, working together to achieve peace and prosperity and highlighted some of the positives that can be derived from religion. Whereas on Antium, the rigidness, conservatism and position of power the church holds had led to despair, racism and an overall fear of change. I just found that the philosophical and spiritual elements of this novel can make the reader think a little bit about the true meanings of our own religions and beliefs.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable storyline that felt a little bit different from the usual fantasy or science fiction novels I have previously read. Whilst I did have issues with the switching between plots, now that the two storylines seem to now have merged I am hoping that this won't be an issue going forward in the sequel. Personally, I am now really looking forward to the sequel and am can't wait to find out where the story is going to go next.
What if your entire existence, every experience, every loss, every joy, every lesson learned would someday combine to make you the one person with the ability and knowledge to save your world?
What if every life you had ever lived combined to make you the one being able to fully and completely embody the life force that created and protected your world?
What if you existed simultaneously in two worlds, and the lessons learned in the one would be the salvation of another?
What if you did not know of this dual existence until it was time to become all that the lessons, loves and lives had made you?
Known Afterlife by Trey Copeland is an extremely well crafted story about two worlds, whose very existence are inextricably combined with one another. Each of the worlds is well developed, with its religion, its society, and the people living there. Each world is on the brink of change, one the natural change of evolutionary progress, the other a revolutionary change brought about by the works of the men and women that live there.
One man is instrumental to the change in both worlds, as he exists in both.
Mr. Copeland has graciously allowed that I, the reader, will have the intelligence to enter into the worlds he has created without becoming pedantic in his descriptions. He assumes that I have come to his book with imagination and the desire to enter a new creation, and he definitely delivers the goods.
For some reason, Trey Copeland’s book, ‘Known Afterlife’ reminds me so much of the best aspects of David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’ (recently made into a film by the Wachowskis), but only in how it masterfully intertwines parallel worlds in order to juxtapose the meaning simmering underneath its two realities: the moral challenges that we all must overcome and solve, regardless of the world we live in.
At its heart, ‘Known Afterlife’ is an incredibly entertaining yarn, in which the two threads of narrative—set thousands of years in the past and the other thousands of years in the future—provide the perfect vessels for author Trey Copeland’s morality play. In one thread, where men live in a world called the Provider (which uncannily rings of the Gaea myths I’ve read as a child), where the most important goal is enlightenment, men live each day both as a celebration of their ancient triumph over their oppressor, the Deagron Maker. Juxtapose that with the other world, Antium, a bleak place where men stew in the utter lack of aspiration and dreams and where corruption holds sway. Against these two backdrops are the stories of two heroes, Stalling and Steffor, who grapple with the challenges of their time just to do what they know in their hearts is right.
Let me suffice it to say that I had goosebumps while reading the book—it is a narrative that will sweep you off your feet, The suspense, the excitement mounts perfectly, thanks to the author’s fine literary craftsmanship. Even reading the first few sample chapters will show you what I speak of.
Overall, ‘Known Afterlife’ is a book that will stay with you long after you’ve read it—richly imagined, intricately textured, and deeply provocative, it is a well-crafted story that is as laden with meaning as it is entertaining. Both fans and non-fans of the genre will find this a delightful read. It fully deserves all the five-star ratings it eventually gets.