Afterlife Code is a science fiction novella written by Joseph M Erickson. Dr. Melanie Sage had an implant that helped her function with the social aspects of life, but the autistic scientist and computer savant was hoping that the code she was working on would allow her to expand her abilities to focus on her work rather than those social niceties. Her mom would rather she just settle down and get married, but her assistant, mathematics savant Paula Dirac, understood Melanie’s focus and just wanted to make sure she had enabled some sort of reset just in case things went awry. Dr. Robert Cobb enjoyed the thrust and parry interactions he shared with his young client, a Marine veteran whose intracranial limbic device, coupled with Dr. Cobb’s therapy, had helped him get past crippling PTSD and finally cleared for his return to the service. Dr. Cobb’s own device, a remnant of his brief military career as a US Army Ranger, had been implanted twenty years ago. He wondered if it needed to be upgraded.
Melanie’s boss, Dr. Karlsson, was furious with her tampering and inadvertent tripping of three silent alarms in the system when she trespassed in order to access the computer equipment. Melanie’s device did allow her to recognize the emotions of her angry boss, but her responses did little to assuage Dr. Karlsson’s ire. She instead ordered Melanie escorted from the building and directed her to see her old therapist, Dr. Cobb. Cobb had expected her call after hearing from Dr. Karlsson, and he had trouble keeping a straight face as she regaled him with her story. He could understand her impatience with her progress even as he was awed by her intelligence and the progress in social niceties she had made. He was intrigued as she discussed her newest enhancement project and watched as she took out her smart phone and began to activate the program. Then, everything went “fizzy”.
Joseph M. Erickson’s high tech science novella, Afterlife Code, is a thrilling and highly entertaining look at alternative reality as Doctors Melanie Sage and Robert Cobb find themselves far removed from their everyday lives. I loved Erickson’s concepts of a virtual storage drive and a shared consciousness that transcends life, and had a grand time considering the knowledge given them by Dr. Gerson on that alternative plane. As with all of Erickson’s works, I learned a great deal from reading this illuminating work even as I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Erickson’s got a gift for speculative fiction writing, and his characters are unique and real. Afterlife Code is most highly recommended. – 5 Stars, Jack Magnus
Readers' Favorite Reviews
Afterlife Code by Joseph M Erickson is a short science fiction novella that explores what may well be the next technological breakthrough for mankind; implanting code within the human brain to control and eliminate undesirable elements that can affect normal brain function. Dr Melanie Sage is a brilliant young mind who has an electronic implant to assist her in overcoming and coping with her autism. She develops a code that can be activated by her smartphone to enhance her implant. Problems occur when she activates this code in the presence of her therapist, Robert Cobb, who also has a brain implant to help him to cope with his Traumatic Stress. Cobb’s implant is an older implant without shielding and, when Melanie touches her therapist, it completes a circuit that throws them into a series of parallel universes and different versions of their lives. What they learn on this journey will ensure what they will make of their future.
What I particularly liked about Afterlife Code is its relevance to current science. I felt like I was reading a novel that touched on the cutting edge of scientific research today. This type of AI/human interface is already being researched and experimented upon. What Joseph M Erickson asks is: what are the possible results of this experimentation? Will we open up a Pandora’s Box by linking ourselves to artificial intelligence? The idea of multiverses and alternate states of reality is very much a hot topic among quantum physicists and this whole area gives the novelist much scope for imagination. I found the book easy to read, if a little short for my liking. I especially enjoyed the conclusions that Cobb and Sage drew as these conform to my general thinking about the purpose of life and the eternity of our existence. I would love to have seen more development of the characters, but this is a novella with the main focus being the concept and I felt that was developed very well. I would read more of this author’s work. – 4 Stars, Grant Leishman
Afterlife Code is a futuristic story of suspense and mystery written by Joseph M. Erickson. With the scene set in the not-so-distant future in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Melanie Sage – a high-functioning autistic scientist who is able to lead a normal life after a chip is implanted into her brain – is ordered to meet with Robert Cobb – a specialist in implants and neurological disorders. During the visit, Robert collapses, setting off a chain of events in which Dr. Sage and Robert find themselves in a different time and place, devoid of sunlight, electricity and any other forms of human life. Seeing computer codes light up the sky and snow falling on the ground in the middle of summer, Dr. Sage and Robert speculate as to whether they are somehow alive within a computer, but nothing could possibly prepare them for their new reality.
While reading Afterlife Code, I found myself hanging on every single word, while frowning at how each scenario could possibly be true. I questioned how Melanie's and Robert’s paths were so brilliantly connected, as each twist and turn penned from the mind of the talented Joseph M. Erickson became more and more astounding. Time travel, alien monsters, a war which wasn’t meant to be and more come into play, causing the reader to question what they had just read as each scene plays out inside their mind. The appearance of Robert Cobb’s children mid-way caused my jaw to drop and tears to fall, as I felt horrified at what type of warped reality the two main characters had stumbled into. Every possible answer brought forward more questions, challenging my mind to its absolute limits.
After reading through the tale for the second time, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed Afterlife Code and have no doubt I will be reading it again and again to see if it distorts from the first and second reading. I wholeheartedly recommend this futuristic tale to readers over 15 years who are fans of mystery, science, and puzzles in one complete sci-fi package. – 5 Stars, Rosie Malezer
Dr Melanie Sage is an autistic computer expert and, as with most sufferers of this debilitating condition, she has a great deal of trouble empathizing, reading people’s emotions, is blind to sarcasm and has a tendency to be severely self-absorbed - a tendency which is amply demonstrated in J.M. Erickson’s novella Afterlife Code, when she is found by security late at night working at her office workstation in her nightwear. At a time in the near future when some psychological conditions can be treated by cranial implants, she is secretly working on an algorithm which will improve and enhance the performance of her own cranial unit. Coincidentally, when she is ordered to undertake an assessment with the company psychologist, she determines that this would be a good opportunity to test her new algorithm. Things do not go to plan, however, and while uploading the new piece of programming she and her psychologist are rendered unconscious. They awake in the same office but in a strange twilight caused by a solar eclipse which seems to last far too long. Are they in the afterlife? As formulae suddenly appear in the sky of this strange world, can Melanie reverse the process she has set in motion, and can she and her psychologist get back to their lives?
Afterlife Code is a pacey novella which introduces a number of technical innovations such as the cranial implants used to modify emotions and the facility to input code directly from a mobile phone. It also explores some tricky subjects, including what happens when we die and does the way in which we live our lives make a difference? I am happy to report that Mr. Erickson has successfully tackled the issues and presented a credible narrative peopled with solid, believable characters. The conclusions do not disappoint, and probably confirm what most of us instinctively feel should be the case. A pleasant mix of science fiction, psychology and philosophy, wrapped up in a short, fast-paced narrative which will not disappoint sci-fi fans. I enjoyed Afterlife Code and do not hesitate to recommend it. – 4 Stars, Charles Remington
Afterlife Code seems like a book with a lot of strong potential. The characters are not fleshed out to the fullest extent, but there are glimmers of interesting, likable people in there. Both Melanie and Robert could become in-depth characters with complex backgrounds, but they're not quite there yet. They feel flat and unrelatable and lacking real motivation. And I think this can be blamed on the short length of the book. The PDF clocks in at only 41 pages, making it a lightning fast read that delivers action, but not much else. I wanted the story to slow down and tell us more, but it didn't have the time to do that.
I think the author has talent. His previous works all ooze professionalism and skill. But this one doesn't deliver at the same quality level. But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it! I thought the story was creative and the ideas themselves were very unique and enjoyable. I just want deeper development and more time to enjoy the story the author has created. I will probably read the other books this author has released because there is great promise here. This is more a bump in the road, not the end of it. I expect many more great books to come from this author in the near future. And I'll be there to gobble them up. It would be interesting to see this story rewritten or expanded so we can get more of Melanie and Robert. This is a gem that just needs a bit more polish. – 3 Stars, Samantha Coville