5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife (Paperback)
Mary Roach's SIX FEET OVER is bracketed in time by two other published offerings, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Bonk: The Curious Coupling Of Sex and Science. Both were immensely readable and enjoyable - 5 stars.
SIX FEET OVER is not a collection of creepy ghost sightings. Rather, it's the author's first-person description of her one-year survey of the evidence for life after death. It encompasses attempts to discover the soul's seat in the body by dissection and the soul's weight by direct measurement, the soul's visibility as demonstrated by, e.g., x-rays and light diffraction, the nature of ectoplasm, the careers of spirit mediums, telecommunicating with the dead, electromagnetic fields as the possible cause of spirit sightings, ghosts and the law, and current research into near-death experiences.
Having read all of Mary's books, SIX FEET OVER is the first which left me briefly annoyed. Specifically, the chapter "Can You Hear Me Now" concerning claimed telecommunications with the dead using both pseudo and genuine technologies - the latter including TVs, alarm clocks, answering machines, sound recorders, computerized spell checkers - was an exercise in beating a subject to death. Halfway through its thirty-four uncharacteristically rambling pages, I wanted to scream "Enough already!" (I mean, I regularly hear voices in my head, but I don't ascribe anything supernatural to them.) The other chapters were commendably brief and to the point.
Mary's strength as a writer is that she takes her subjects seriously, but not too seriously. She presents to the reader with a cocked eyebrow and plenty of wry humor. More importantly, she doesn't take herself too seriously either. A paragraph about an experiment to draw passers-by attentions to a staged spirit apparition walking through a field, in one case the costumed "ghost" being followed by a small herd of cows, is footnoted thus:
"This comes as no surprise to yours truly, who has twice, on separate continents, carried out an experiment designed to prove the considerable curiosity of cows. This is an experiment I urge you to repeat, simply for the giddy thrill of it. Go into a pasture where cows are grazing in the distance. Shout to get their attention and then suddenly lie down. The moment you do, they will hurry over to investigate, encircling you and staring down at you with unmitigated bovine fascination."
Watch for cow pies, though.
Roach obviously enjoys researching for her various books. The fact that she has so much fun doing so ensures a volume that'll be no less than four stars, and will most likely deserve five. That's why I'll continue to purchase and read anything she writes.