Dead Lines by Greg Bear
Greg Bear doesn’t stick slavishly to one genre.
He has written many different kinds of tales, which also sound different in tone and style. His most recent novel tackles life after death, and what happens when the soul’s natural process of moving on fails to go smoothly. Dead Lines meshes technology with a Sixth Sense spookiness.
Peter Russell’s life is a mess. His porn-film career is over, his marriage has failed, and one of his daughters has been murdered. He fills his time running errands for an eccentric millionaire named Joseph Benoliel.
Peter’s association with this man will change his life in horrifying ways.
Through Benoliel, Peter meets Stanley Weinstein, whose company Trans has created a new type of cell phone technology. Peter agrees to help with marketing, but first he performs one more errand for Benoliel: He’s sent to a famous psychic, to ask if someone can survive without a soul. These two disparate events collide when it becomes eerily apparent that Trans’ phone frequency, previously unknown and unused, may be tapping into the afterlife and attracting souls … and other more sinister things.
Dead Lines is a short novel – only 246 pages – so you’d think that Bear would have made the most of every page and paragraph, especially when it comes to characterization. Unfortunately, only Peter shows any depth. Others move in and out at brief intervals, but remain as hollow as the ghosts they’re all seeing.
I’m also surprised that Bear chose not to explain some key plot elements until three-quarters of the way through the book. The many ghost sightings would have carried more suspense if more information were given early on. Without it, the majority of this story feels tedious and repetitive.
Although opening with an interesting premise, Dead Lines isn’t daring enough to pull off a suspenseful tale.