Marcus Sakey’s latest novel is straight out of a dream

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Marcus Sakey’s latest novel is straight out of a dream

“It was one of those fairly vivid dreams where I was wandering around Chicago, where I live, and there was nobody. It was this sort of lonely, abandoned Chicago,” says Sakey, a million-selling author whose “Afterlife” comes out this week and takes place in a Chicago both real and otherworldly.

“And I had that dream knowledge, where it was like, ‘Oh, you’re dead.’ And I wasn’t scared. It wasn’t like a nightmare... But then I woke up, lying next to my wife of 20 years, and I imagined not being in the same place as her - literally standing in the same room and not being able to see her or interact with her or talk to her. And all of a sudden it became very scary indeed.”

Known for his “Brilliance” thriller trilogy and other works, the 43-year-old Sakey combines numerous genres and influences in “Afterlife,” from crime and science fiction to Greek mythology.

In “Afterlife,” FBI agent Will Brody seemingly dies in an explosion, only to awake unharmed in a ghoulish Chicago he hardly recognizes. He will be joined in his new surroundings, and in his old ones, by love interest and FBI task force head Claire McCoy. Together, they fight killers on Earth and villains in the cosmos.

“Afterlife” is also Sakey’s way of using an alternate world to make sense of this one. Will finds himself wondering if the Chicago he has landed in is the final stage of existence or just a pathway.

In one scene, Will watches thousands of shadowy figures drifting to “Pure and total nothingness. A black hole” and, spotting Claire among them, vows to rescue her.

“I was kind of fascinated by the notion we all have this idea that at the end, in death, we’re going to get the answers,” Sakey said during a recent interview at a Manhattan restaurant.

“If you believe in any particular theology, you’ll be judged. And if you don’t - and I personally don’t - then there’ll just be nothing and that’s an answer, too. And it was really fun to think, ‘What if you just landed somewhere and there were no answers?’ It ended up becoming an interesting parallel for life, because we don’t have any answers here and we go on living anyway.”

Sakey has written eight previous novels and found a following among general readers and Hollywood executives.

His novel “Good People” became a 2014 film starring James Franco and Kate Hudson. “Afterlife” has been acquired by Imagine Entertainment, Ron Howard’s production company.

For “Afterlife,” Sakey did depart in some ways from his previous books. In researching his crime stories, he has bonded with everyone from SWAT teams to bank robbers, and he loves to talk about riding around with police, listening to their stories. Much of the preparation for his new novel was private and internal, walking about the streets of Chicago, wondering what they would look like in the next dimension. AP

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