I read this novel about 20-25 years ago, and I think it was shortly after its publication.

It is definitely SF if only because medicine is more advanced in the book than it was 20 years ago when it was published (but maybe not more advanced than now, reality has a way of catching up with fiction). It is also a fantasy, there are some elements in the book that are definitely not rational.

The main character is a doctor who does research on near-death-experiences. She works in an almost dysfunctional hospital which is a maze where she has to keep running from place to place (one of the things I remember is that, though it is a page-turner, I had sometimes to put it down to recover my breath - and I am not asthmatic ).

She interviews people who had near-death experiences and many tell about remembering being in a ship. And their tales seem to have some consistency with each other. And at some point she is knifed by a madman. And she ends up on the ship.

Towards the end the reader finds out that

when people are dying and their brain suffer from lack of oxygen, they "dream" of a common fictitious ship which is in some sense the Titanic. Those who are revived remember that as a near-death experience. The others just... drown.

1 Answer 1


Passage by Connie Willis.

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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.

Joanna realises her NDEs are on a ship like the Titanic:

Joanna finds herself in a dark passage that, through further NDEs, she realizes is part of a dream-like version of the RMS Titanic, on which she encounters passengers of the real Titanic as well as someone symbolically near death, a high school teacher whom she had studied with a decade or so earlier, Mr. Pat Briarley. Between NDE sessions, Joanna struggles to figure out why she sees the Titanic, and she eventually tracks down Mr. Briarley, who spoke often of the Titanic in class. Joanna discovers that Mr. Briarley, once a highly animated and keen teacher, now suffers from Alzheimer's disease. This is crushing to Joanna, who was certain that Mr. Briarley could give her "the key" to clarify why she sees the Titanic. However, Mr. Briarley's niece, Kit, promises to help.

And as you say she is stabbed:

Before she can tell Richard Wright about her discovery, she goes to visit Nurse Vielle in the Emergency Room and is stabbed by a man deranged by a drug called "rogue". Before losing consciousness, she manages to say a few words to Vielle, trying to communicate her discovery about NDEs. She finds herself on the Titanic again and races against dream-like obstacles to escape and awaken.

  • Yes ! Exactly that one !
    – Alfred
    Apr 16 at 8:09

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