So I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it. I was browsing at the library, and it caught my eye, and after having read the blub, I loved the concept of the book so much that I picked it up. And I’m glad I did.
Reincarnation Blues follows our main character Milo who has reincarnated 9,995 times and is one of the oldest if not THE oldest soul on earth. But — he only has five lives left to gain perfection, and when he does, he earns a place in the great cosmic soul — gets to become part of the Oversoul of the universe. But if he doesn’t, he ceases to exist. Completely. He just fades into nothing.
But there’s another interesting complication. At the end of every life, he awakes on the bank of the river in the arms of the anthropomorphic manifestation of Death also known as Suzie (she prefers to be called Suzie as she doesn’t like to be referred to as death). But it is Suzie who comes to him as Death at the end of every one of his lives.
For millennia, Suzie and Milo have loved each other, and they are both facing the future with a kind of dread as Milo’s lives count down. So in this way, it’s a great love story, though that is not the focus of the book.
It’s also worth mentioning that when he’s on earth living out a life as a human, he has no recollection of any of this other lives nor does he remember that the love of his life — or should I say his soul — is waiting for him on the other side. His wisdom does tend to grow with each life, however, so we do get to see his evolution.
What I found especially fascinating about this book was that the book the author provides us with small glimpses of many of his incarnations. Several of them, however, are much more detailed and I found them all riveting. Some take place in the way distant past while others take place in the far future, some even in space. What’s interesting about these stories is that they are chronological so we have no idea where we were going to end up after turning the page; though the author does an excellent job of weaving all these lives — including Milo’s time in the afterlife — together into a cohesive story. The author shifted seamlessly and elegant from one time period to the next.
I loved the fact that if you really screwed up during one of your lives, then you have to live a life of penance such as coming back as a ladybug or a housefly. Of course, the author goes into quite a bit of detail with Milo’s five remaining lives, and it’s in these stories where we truly get a feel for the kind of person he is.
This book wasn’t just about one man’s search for perfection. Suzie (AKA Death) also had her own search for meaning, and I enjoyed seeing Death’s evolution as the story unfolded. But it was also about the power of choice and those terribly gray areas between right and wrong. But I don’t want to mention any more lest I delve into spoiler territory.
I think one reason I enjoyed this so much was that the book had a Terry Pratchettesque feeling to it, especially the humor I felt. Hell, Death, who is featured in many of the Terry Pratchett Discworld books, is also one of the main characters in this tale.
Reincarnation Blues was part sci-fi, part fantasy, part dystopian, with a good sprinkling of philosophy and humor. It’s a magical and quirky book that makes you think long after the story is finished. It is also wildly entertaining and uplifting, though some parts of Milo’s lives were rather brutal and a tad difficult to read about.
But all in all, this book was a home run for me, and I ended up loving it.