From the moment I first saw it as a child, the 1946 Powell and Pressburger film A Matter of Life and Death (or Stairway to Heaven as it was called in America) instilled in me a strange fascination with death. Not in the morbid sense, but with the logistics that would inevitably be a part of any agency burdened with the organization of life after death. In A Matter of Life and Death, a WWII pilot whose plane goes down is lost in the fog and the agents of heaven miss picking him up when he should have died, so he goes on living for a little while. In that time he meets an American woman and they fall in love, when the heavenly agents come to claim him he argues that now two lives will be ruined which would otherwise never have intersected. The issue is deemed complex enough to warrant a trial, one adjudicated and witnessed by the massed ranks of the dead residing in heaven. The sheer enormity of the bureaucracy involved in this one lost death is only hinted at, but the scope of it is quite fascinating.
When I read Si Spurrier and PJ Holden’s Numbercruncher I knew that I’d finally found someone just as enthralled by the administration and inhuman efficiency set forth in A Matter of Life and Death. Numbercruncher presents a story about a man so in love that he is willing to sell his soul in order to get another chance at life with his beloved. As is so often the case in these situations it doesn’t quite work out that simply. However, in a radical and refreshing departure from the norm this story is not presented from the point of view of our lovestruck young man, but instead from the perspective of the beleaguered administrative “angel” who is assigned to his case. This miserably reluctant employee of the afterlife is descriptively named “Bastard Zane” (which tells you nearly everything you need to know about this frustrated thug). Continue Reading »