by Connie Willis
Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist at Denver's Mercy General who specializes in the study of near-death experiences. And she's not the only one. There is also Dr. Mandrake, a best-selling author of spiritual books meant to convince people of the reality of the Other-Side and that those who have died can still communicate with those of us still here. Joanna spends most of her time trying to avoid him and get to patients who have coded to record their NDE before Dr. Mandrake gets ahold of them. So when she finds out there is yet another doctor who has joined Mercy General's staff who is also interested in the study of NDE's, she assumes he's another quack. She is surprised to discover that not only does he not believe in Mandrake's brand of neo-spirtuality, he is actually trying to find a scienticfic cause behind NDEs and maybe even medical applications.
Dr. Wright has discovered a way to artificially induce a NDE, but needs help with getting accurate details of the experience out of his volunteers, without corrupting it. Joanna quickly agrees to join his research project, and almost as quickly decimates his number of test subjects. When they start to loose even those that weren't disqualified, she volunteers to go under herself. What she experiences during when she goes under isn't at all what she expected and she becomes nearly obssesed in finding out what exactly it means.
While I was intrigued by the concept of the book, I wasn't at all prepared for how gripping it would be. From almost the very beginning I couldn't put it down, despite the fact that death isn't always the best late night reading choice. All of the characters were well written, but it was definitely the story that grabbed me and kept me going right up through some twists that weren't altogether expected. However, the last section of the book lost me a little bit. One scene was entirely implausible from a scientific standpoint, while the final scene of the book just left me confused. In all though, I really enjoyed the book and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who likes reading science-fiction or fantasy, both genres in which this book could be easily categorized.