Review: Reincarnation Blues
Had this one sitting on my shelf at home for quite a while. Picked it up to try and read a few times, and ended up putting it back down again. I finally decided that I was going to punch this one out though, as there were so many great reviews for it on Amazon. Wish I’d just listened to my first impressions of the opening sequence and forgotten the whole thing. Realistically, I should have been put off by the fact that the title includes the moniker: A novel. That’s pretty much always a dead giveaway that a book’s going to be exactly the kind of item to disappoint me.
REINCARNATION BLUES (Amazon) looks to be the author’s second novel, although he has also published a good number of short fiction stories as well. So, no stranger to publication is this one.
This story is about Milo. Milo is a simple soul. He’s lived and he’s died thousands of times, and he has the memories to prove it. He’s died by car accident and catapult, by shark and by plane. It stands to reason that he’s died in more ways that you could possibly conceive of dying. Then, one day, after dying for the 9,995th time, two beings of the universe catch Milo in the afterlife and let him know that he only has 10,000 chances in order to become “perfect”. If, within those 10,000 lives he finds his way to becoming “perfect”, then he’ll be able to walk into The Everything, the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t, somehow, end up finding his way to that state of being, he’ll stop existing. Sad story for Milo. Some quick math reveals that he only has five chances left.
So, Milo decides to set off and try to become “perfect”. He leaves his girlfriend, the incarnation of Death (whom he calls Suzie) and is born into his 9.996th life. This all happens within the first few chapters of the book, and the rest of the story is, theoretically, about his attempts to achieve perfrectoin… pefrection… perfection. There we go.
Sounds kind of like a lazy Sunday afternoon book that you could while away the hours with and share in the joy of finding perfection with your friend and mine, Milo. Yeah? Well, it’s kind of like that. The big part of that layout that this story misses completely though is the part where Milo learns anything along the path between being told he has to find perfection or actually die and finally reaching the end of his journey.
Each of the five remaining lives of Milo are laid out with relative simplicity. Some of the story is modern. Some historic. (Time really doesn’t mean much when you’re being reincarnated, apparently.) Some are far-flung into the future and within the reaches of space. Along the path we get some of Milo’s past lives. Stuff he’s already lived. He spends some time in the afterlife, learning things that by-and-large don’t affect any part of the actual lives that count on this journey. Most of these lives come pre-configurable as well, with Milo being able to pick and choose what abilities he may or may not want that time around.
Poore’s writing is pretty good. Flows well. Somewhat pretty in parts. I listened to this one on audiobook, and the voice talent absolutely pegged the nonchalant walkthrough of Milo’s lives, as they’re told to us from the pages of the book. He did have an annoying habit of ending sentences with an upturn of his voice though, which always made me think more was coming, but then would come the words, “Chapter Nineteen,” and I’d realize that he’d fooled me again with his crafty ways.
Even though the point of the book is laid out in perfect simplicity for us by the friendly embodiments of the universe within the first few chapters, the story moves from one life to the next, and Milo constantly seems to ignore it all. The individual lives that Milo leads are relatively interesting in a very random and inconsequential sort of way, but then he dies and we’re on to the next one. He experiences some more stuff and then dies again. Only once does he really think about what he’s doing and what the point of the entire story, nay this entire book for we readers, should have been, and that is right before he dives into his final and 10,000th life… but then it’s just another life like all the others have been. And he lives it and dies it.
Fortunately for Milo though, he did learn something along the way. None of it was relayed to the reader however. I mean, tut tut, why would that be important? So, at the end of 10,000 lives, Milo stands in the afterlife amidst a massive throng of people and says that he’s learned that we shouldn’t waste our lives by not doing things just because we’re afraid of them.
I’ll leave it to the other poor saps that take the time to read this book to find out if that single monologue, which is neither developed beforehand nor otherwise relayed piecemeal to the reader, is enough to get Milo into The Everything and not be disintegrated into a Googleplex of quarks and absorbed into the aether. You have a fifty-fifty chance of guessing though. And if you guess right, you’ll likely find your feet on the path toward perfection.
I don’t necessarily dislike literary novels simply because they’re literary novels. I find, however, that I dislike most of them because they either fail to keep my interest or fail to give me a complete story about the characters within them. This one failed on both counts. Though I was perfectly content with reading each of those lives, the lack of progression and any kind of point (other than to set up a nice monologue about living life good) soured me toward the book enough to drop my rating into the lower realm of possibility. Upon the merits of this book alone, I can pretty much guarantee that I will never dive into another book by this author ever again, as his opinion and mine about what a good story makes diverged from one another long ago.
Perhaps even, you might imagine, in another life.
- Recommended Age: 18+
- Language: Quite a few F-words, but only very seldom anything else
- Violence: A couple of Milo's lives deal with some intimate death, murder, and the threat thereof, but there's not much violence overall
- Sex: Several instances of sex and rape of a minor