Once a week or so, I head over to Barnes & Noble to cruise through the aisles and take a look at new books. If a cover looks intriguing, I pick up the book, read the back cover. If the copy on the back captures my interest, I open the book and read the inside flap. If I’m still interested, I open the book to the first page. If it seizes my attention, off to the register I go.
But a couple of weeks ago, I saw Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore on a display table and wondered why the cover and title were familiar. I was pretty sure I would remember reading a book that mentioned reincarnation in the title, but checked the back cover to be sure:
“Milo woke up by the water, as he’d done almost ten thousand times. Death was there with him, sitting cross-legged. She was always there when he awakened, wearing her long black hair like a cape. She didn’t have to be there. She could snuff out his life and leave him to wake up on his own. But she never did. Not once.
“‘Suzie,’ he whispered. (She didn’t like to be called “death.” Who would?”)
So, even though the cover seemed familiar, I definitely hadn’t read the book. I bought it and went home. Rob saw the book on the kitchen table. “We already have this book! You and Megan gave it to me last Christmas.”
So I gave Megan the paperback version I’d bought and I started reading the hardcover.
Reincarnation Blues is clever, funny, strange, and sometimes disturbing. The story alternates between some of Milo’s lives – in the distant past and distant future – and his time in between lives, where he and Suzie (death) are frequently lovers. Mile’s quest is for a life of spiritual perfection, and after 9,995 lives, he has 5 more chances to achieve it and “earn a spot in the cosmic soul.” But the only thing he really desires is to be with Suzie forever.
Some of the lives he lives are harrowing. The one in a future penal colony in outer space is the most disturbing, but in that life, he masters a “mind” technique that enables him to drift naked in outer space without dying. The experiences change something in his brain chemistry and afterward, he’s able to heal the other prisoners of various illnesses. He becomes a kind of guru and completely transforms the penal colony. In this life, he nearly achieves perfection.
Reincarnation Blues lives up to the starred Kirkus Review it got: “Hilarious and often touching…Tales of gods and men akin to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman as penned by a kindred spirit of Douglas Adams.”
It’s one of the most imaginative novels I’ve read in years.