HEREAFTER AND AFTER by Richard Parks, intro by Andy Duncan, cover by Willaim T. Maud - 'The Ride of The Valkyries'. Hornsea, East Yorkshire, UK; PS Publishing; 2007. 1st edition hardcover.
When a man carelessly steps in front of a speeding garbage truck, that's usually the end of his story. But for Jake Hallman it's just the beginning. He awakens on a metaphorical stretch of the Afterlife called the Golden Road, where the angel Brendan comes to escort him to Heaven. But Jake isn't having any:
"Look, this is all kind of sudden. Heaven sounds like a good thing in theory, but what is it really? What will I do there? Can I leave if I don't like it? Under what circumstances? Can you force me to go?"
Brendan scratched his head. "I don't think this has come up before."
With that simple exchange Jake becomes one of the rarest and most valuable commodities in the Afterlife: a free soul. Most people with Jake's cultural conditioning can't wait to get to Heaven, but Jake isn't most people. Jake is having insights, ideas and understandings that change who he is on a fundamental level. Dead people aren't supposed to change - that's a big part of what being "dead" means - but the rules don't seem to apply to Jake. This draws the unwelcome attention of the competing Divine Wills whose domains make up the Afterlife. They see Jake's potential as a threat or, even more worryingly, as an opportunity.
What's a free soul to do? That is, if he wants to remain that way?
If you're Jake Hallman you team up with a disgruntled ex-Valkyrie named Freya and hit the Golden Road, the mystic path that links the Heavens and Hells of every mythos, plus a few places even the gods forgot. The unlikely pair undertake a rare quest: to discover if there is any place in the cosmos where a spirit can be truly free.
Fine in fine dj. Issued in a SIGNED/LIMITED hardcover edition of 300 copies SIGNED BY BOTH AUTHOR & INTRODUCER.