Ending Forever, by Nicholas Conley
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Today, I’m excited to be reviewing Ending Forever, by Nicholas Conley.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
Axel Rivers has signed a contract, allowing a rich organization known as Kindred to kill, and subsequently resuscitate him, in exchange for monetary gain. Axel’s first death is an experience like no other, where there is nothing, save for the stranger. Afterward, he feels so alone.
When he re-visits the deathscape (a surreal location he travels to in death), he encounters the memory of his dearly-departed wife, who warns him to save her. A few days later, it becomes clear who her refers to, and Axel endeavours to somehow re-enter the deathscape, to convince the deathweavers to spare a young girl’s life.
Axel Rivers is an unemployed welder who was hit hard by a recession. Having lost his wife and son, he finds himself alone and in dire need of money. He hopes that by volunteering to die in Kindred’s programme, that he might get to see his departed loved ones once more.
Axel grew up in foster care, feeling unloved and deeply sensitive to the world around him. A former soldier, he has a deeply protective nature and is driven by his need for answers in life, particularly regarding the stranger, who he encounters in the deathscape.
At the start of the story, Axel appeared to have given up on life, going through the motions, so to speak. However, by the end we see him emerge stronger, having forgiven himself for the deaths of his loved ones, able to use his new life experiences to look ahead, to a better future.
Brooklyn is first introduced as a somewhat sarcastic young woman with anisocoria (an unusual eye condition), who quickly befriends Axel when they meet in the Kindred programme. We later learn that she is a single mother, and an excellent one at that. In addition, she and Axel have an instant rapport, with Brooklyn calling him Battle-ax. Brooklyn’s fun sense of humour comes through on the page and made her intensely likable from the start.
However, Brooklyn’s life has not been all plain-sailing and laughs. She has experienced much pain and trauma, just as Axel has, a common feature which binds their lives together when they meet. Over time, I could see just how strong of a woman Brooklyn had grown to become, knowing everything she had overcome so far in her life.
The Stranger is a repetitive presence witnessed in the deathscape. It first appears to Axel as a deformed version of his deceased son, with a mangled hand and an eerie mask of his child’s face. It blames Axel for his wife and son’s deaths, feeding into his own sense of guilt over what happened to them. It is later revealed what the stranger actually is. However, I will not mention this here for risk of spoiling the surprise for the rest of you.
While reading Ending Forever, I identified numerous positive elements, which I have detailed below.
- The third-person point of view narration worked well to highlight both Axel’s waking life and his deathscape experiences. I particularly liked how Axel’s deathscape experiences are told in third-person present-tense, while his real-life experiences are told from third-person past-tense. I thought this was a nice way of distinguishing the two; Axel’s waking life and dreaming death.
- The deathscape was an interesting concept, like a twisted, surreal dream. Furthermore, the idea of deathweavers (beings who control the fates of mortals) was very mysterious and intriguing.
- The characters were explored at a deep emotional level, allowing us to see their fears and past trauma, goals, and all the burdens they carried with them. As a result, this allowed me to easily empathise with the character’s individual plights.
As usual, while reading Ending Forever, I kept my eyes peeled for insightful quotes. With that in mind, the following six stood out to me the most.
1) ‘Energy cannot be created or destroyed – we never truly cease to exist – our energy must just get redistributed.’
2) ‘Everybody’s complicated, I guess. No matter how hard we try to be simple.’
3) ‘We’re such a small part of something so huge. Infinite.’
4) ‘Connections run deep sometimes. Even if they’re new.’
5) ‘The Everything is complex and multi-faceted – Every action, every moment, and every decision factors into an infinite number of other ones.’
6) ‘Sadness is part of what makes you alive. Sadness is human. And don’t be afraid to find some happiness, either, because that’s part of being human, too. It’s all interconnected. It’s all part of you.’
Overall, Ending Forever was a suspenseful novel that explored the concept of life after death. It was told in a deeply emotional style, focusing on feelings of loss and the fears that stem from such losses.
Themes included life and death, what might happen after we die, memories, and grief / loss.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of unique stories, which delve deep into the concept of life after death.
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