Is heaven just a vessel in out-of space?: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead – Charlie Laidlaw

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Date: January 2017

Publisher: Accent Press:

Isn’t the human imagination such a wonderful thing! Art and literature being the ultimate platform in which we can project the bizarre and brilliant ideas that float through our thoughts. When I first picked up Charlie’s Laidlaw’s novel, The Things We Learn When We Are Dead, I of course had no idea what to expect as I’d only read the blurb – the plot of which was so strange that quite frankly, it could go one of two ways.

On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions. It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… Or does God have a higher purpose after all?

At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decision to make and that maybe she needs to find a way home

Strange, but I was utterly captivated by the very first page. This book is so well-written, it could be about a man watching paint dry and I still would have loved it. As it happens, the plot was equally as well-crafted as the words and I was introduced to new ideas about death and the afterlife – one’s I had never considered before. This novel questions religion and what ‘heaven’ really is.

It seems like an odd question, but is heaven simply a vessel in space captained by a hippy-type God? I mean, there are millions, perhaps zillions of theories that have circulated through time that I suppose this idea isn’t that crazy. I mean, someone once told me they believe our souls are transported to other living creatures when we die – even plants. So what’s so wrong about a spaceship – especially a spaceship that picks up creatures from other planets.

This novel really is full of unique ideas that got me thinking – and I am in no way religious. Lorna is such a great character, someone I felt I really related to (though I am no way near clever enough to be a lawyer.) Its told in flashbacks – fleeting stories from Lorna’s past that are told as she slowly remembers her life on earth and we are challenged with the idea that perhaps it is our memories that really shape us. I also loved Irene, a ‘woman’ from another planet who is both rebellious and moody, yet makes every effort to make Lorna comfortable in her new place in Heaven.

What really kept me reading, was when we find out that Lorna had supposedly committed suicide and that God had chosen her especially to be aboard the space ship (you see, not everyone goes to heaven). She denies she committed suicide, its just not something she would do! But when her past life unfolds within her memories, it seems she is not quite who she remembered.

This is  not a novel for a light afternoon read – this is for someone wanting a book they can really get their teeth into!


Find out more about Charlie and his other novels here:



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