Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
In his latest novel, Poore riffs on a more-or-less Buddhist idea that souls are reborn, moving “up” and “down” a scale of lives according to their behavior when alive. The goal is to achieve “perfection”, whatever that means, at which point you get off the wheel and go on to something grander.
This process is hindered not only be a lack of clear directions (What is “perfection”? Who is judging your life?) but also by the usual amnesia about past lives. If the do overs are to teach a lesson, it would be helpful to remember previous lives, wouldn’t it?
However shaky the logic of reincarnation, it’s an absolutely great storytelling framework. And Poole runs with it.
The protagonist Milo seems to be a bit of a slacker, sliding along from life to life for over 9,000 lives. Progress is difficult to discern, and he doesn’t seem perfect, though he seems to be going for the longevity record.
Another huge problem is that he is in love with Death herself, in the incarnation of “Suzie”. The feelings are mutual. It’s hard to be motivated to get off the wheel if the love of your lives is one of the crew running it.
The story gets serious when Milo is informed that he has a limit of 10,000 lives (he’s currently at 9,995), after which he will simply be erased. (This makes as much or as little sense as any thing else about reincarnation.) It’s time to get “perfect” or else.
And what will happen to Suzie when he goes (either way)? Death isn’t human, and there is no path for her to perfection, with or without Milo. Even the rewards of the Oversoul don’t attract if you have to loose your lover.
Milo and Suzie must figure out how to beat the system. Perfection-smerfection. They just want a decent life together.
Poole writes well, and imagines some pretty interesting lives and afterlives. We care about Milo and Suzie. In fact, we care about them way more than we care about the cosmic balance or perfection or the supposed moral lessons Milo has learned.
- Michael Poore, Reincarnation Blues, New York, Del Ray, 2017.
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