Peter's efforts to understand these things take him from one memorable extreme to another: he consults a charismatic psychic, takes a funereal road-trip to San Francisco to dump his friend's ashes in the sea, and visits a famous prison-turned-office bloc where the death chamber is now the server room for a telecommunications startup. Phone calls from Prague and an invisible chess opponent come to seem equally mundane in Peter's new world, as the tale moves in increments from creepy understanding to real horror, ending in a crashing climax of fire and discovery.
Greg Bear's Dead Lines is truly spooky, in the way ghost stories seldom are after we enter our cynical middle years. Peter, like most of Bear's readers, does not believe in psychics, ghosts or paranormal powers. He may not be happy, but at least he is content with his life and himself. The power of Bear's story is that we understand how Peter loses both that easy contentment and his disbelief.
We travel with him on his downhill path to the queasy realization that Hamlet was right. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. And if we're lucky, none of them have our cell phone numbers.