Date: 02 January, 2002 — $6.75 — Book
Fiction, Science Fiction
Joanna Lander is a doctor studying near-death experiences, NDEs. She's trying to figure out what they truly are, but is severely hampered by "researcher" Maurice Mandrake, who pressures the patients to reveal angels, Jesus, and heavenly glory rather than what they actually see. Naturally, such pressure makes for conformist NDEs rather than true ones. When Dr. Richard Wright comes to the hospital with a way to simulate NDEs, Joanna gratefully joins his project as it gives her a chance to get untainted observations.
No one's research is entirely pure: Joanna is hoping that Richard's research will lead to better revival techniques to help people like child-patient Maisie Nellis, a disaster-fascinated child whose heart is in bad condition, and has already failed several times. Such a technique could help her stay alive long enough for a transplant to become available. However, there's not many untainted subjects and funding will be up for review soon— so Joanna goes under herself.
This is Willis at her best; the novel was nominated for the Hugo award. It's sad at points, however, dealing with the subject of death; indirectly, it deals with the subject of drowning as a metaphor, of being overwhelmed by life. It's a difficult novel to finish but well worth the effort.