My most recent favorite is Passage by Connie Willis. It is a story based around two researchers, Joanna Landers & Richard Wright and their work on "near death experiences." Dr Wright has found a way to chemically recreate NDEs & using volunteers, they are able to get some good data, just not enough. In trying to collect & quantify their data Joanna decides to go under to see an NDE first hand. The story weaves through Joanna's attempt to make sense of her own experiences, the experiences of the volunteers & ultimately just what the data really means. Ms Willis is is able to build a story so insidiously intense that you barely realize that your nails are nubs & you are perched on the edge of your chair. I love a good long book with a super ending. In my experience many writers can create a great book but have a hard time wrapping it up. Not so with Connie Willis. I was so stunned by the ending of Passage that I had to reread the last few chapters twice more just to confirm that I had really read what I thought I had read in the beautifully crafted ending. No gore to speak of even though the setting IS a hospital, no gratuitous sex (shucks) just a really good read.
A tunnel, a light, a door. And beyond it ... the unimaginable.
Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist specializing in near-death experiences. She is about to get help from a new doctor with the power to give her the chance to get as close to death as anyone can.
A brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright has come up with a way to manufacture the near-death experience using a psychoactive drug. Joanna’s first NDE is as fascinating as she imagined — so astounding that she knows she must go back, if only to find out why that place is so hauntingly familiar.
But each time Joanna goes under, her sense of dread begins to grow, because part of her already knows why the experience is so familiar, and why she has every reason to be afraid.
Yet just when Joanna thinks she understands, she’s in for the biggest surprise of all — a shattering scenario that will keep you feverishly reading until the final climactic page.