I got this book from Netgalley, the book publishes on Jan 26, 2021. The title is a little strange, the cover even more so, but it is the description that entices me to try it. It starts in Hong Kong, then the story moves to Mumbai before it settles down in Amsterdam.
The Beginning of Dead Money
The story starts with a stock market trader, Raymond Li, losing a lot of money. Only problem is that the money belongs to a triad boss, who will definitely feed him to the sharks when he finds out.
Out of desperation, Raymond finds a solution to his problem: Afterlife Money! You see, when you die, you need money to reach the gates of heaven in the Chinese culture. It is why people burn gold and silver papers or fake cash notes to their dead ones in the underworld. The gold is to pay for safe passage (that’s what I was taught, don’t blame me!)
So Raymond devices a new scam, and he does not skip any steps. He rents a place, registers a Bank of Eternity. He spins stories, starting with the Chinese culture, about hiring lawyers to avoid getting thrown into the pits of Hell.
I am sure that no one is sin-free, so everyone will have an interest in erm… hiring lawyers to avoid suffering after death, right? That happens, people pay for Afterlife cash that they cannot see, hoping it will serve them well when they are dead.
As ludicrous as it sounds, no one can prove him wrong (or right) and his business spreads like wild fire
Scene 2 of Dead Money
Sanjit Sharma in Mumbai receives the worst news: he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a slow and torturous death sentence. He hears about Bank of Eternity and Afterlife Dollars, but lacks the funds to secure a good life after death.
By coincidence, his friend Ali knows someone who can help… with a price.
In Amsterdam, Theo is a financial consultant who recognizes The Bank of Eternity as a fraud and a danger to his society. But his good advice falls into deaf ears of his bosses and later the Dutch parliament. The story spirals lower into anti- Chinese as the Bank of Eternity originates from Hong Kong. The hatred caused by the price of Afterlife Dollars increased due to the demand.
You know that Dead Money also has a pandemic? The author uses H1N1 bird flu, but it sounds eerily similar to Covid-19. Not to mention the anti- Chinese sentiment that resonates around the world when Coronavirus first struck. First, it is human greed and desperation that creates the fictional Bank of Eternity.
The author then uses Afterlife Dollars to paint a bleak picture of human behavior and mentality. We do fear the unknown, life after we die is the biggest unknown. Then monkey see- monkey do. Our herd mentality sometimes fails us as a community, because it can impair our sound judgement.
And desperation makes us dangerous, the worst? Is that everything about the book can happen, because it has happened in reality. Think about the covid- parties versus staying at home, people hitting random strangers because they look “Chinese”. All the ugliness show when people are afraid and desperate.
The weakest point of the book is the characters. None of them are relatable, maybe because the author puts a lot of focus on the story and lessons. Raymond Li is a shifty man who thrives on lies and greed, Sharma needs to feel that he is forgiven for all the pain he had caused. Theo might be the most likable person, but he has a problem with women and a detachment to the world. While that detachment allows him to see the scam as one, it also stops him from connecting to the people around.
This is much a story- driven story, which I admire. The author probably succeeds in his goal: making me squirm as I read on. Perhaps he should be in the industry of prophesying, because the whole thing is literally 2020 in a nutshell, minus the imaginary bank of course.
My own thoughts:
I recognize that the book is not perfect, but it is never meant to be. It has suicides, violence and all the evil things humanity inflict on each other. It is as if the author is writing about the realities of his life, omitting the hopes and dreams of people (he particularly squashes one).
I hope by reading this, we can prove him wrong by doing the opposite after that.
Should you read it? Maybe, if you like situational stories and the lack of likeable people. There is a suicidal theme in the book, I feel like I should warn you, and nothing in the book is healthy and happy. There is no happy ending in this book, which is not really a let down considering the whole thing is about laughing at the downward spiral the world is going to at the moment.
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