Want another fun book with a reincarnation theme? Here’s my review from Goodreads.
I was excited to read Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues because it bears a strong affinity to Stephen Weinstock’s 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles. Of course I delighted in the similarities between the two works, but I also admired the unique elements of Reincarnation Blues that set it apart from 1001.
Like The Qaraq, the first book in the 1001 series, Mr. Poore’s book jumps right in, assuming how reincarnation works in operation. Many fantasy books about immortality creep up on you, or make a big mystery of the attainment of everlasting life, or what might happen after death. But here we meet Milo, a character with almost 10,000 lifetimes racked up, dragged into the interlife as if it were the daily rush hour on the 101.
Poore and Weinstock also enjoy structuring their books around a catalog of past life stories. Whereas 1001 follows the regular form of the Arabian Nights, with a past life story in each chapter, Reincarnation Blues uses a more fluid, organic appearance of the stories. Each tale clearly advances Milo’s quest for perfection and transcendence. But at times they are mentioned briefly, at times occur as extended tales, and at times are introduced with a variety of scenes in the afterlife. Both books allow the convention of past lives guiding the narrative to transport us to sci-fi worlds, historical fictions, romance, fantasy, all freely moving between genres. I love that.
There is a key difference in tone between Mr. Poore’s novel and the 1001 series. Reincarnation Blues emulates the sardonic humor and nonchalant tone of Kurt Vonnegut, especially in approaching huge, cosmic ideas. The writing is philosophical, charming, and dry, delivering the darkness in a lighter way. In 1001, the characters can be humorous and quick-witted, but each one has a unique literary style when they convey recount their lives.
There are other differences. The lifetimes in Reincarnation Blues span 8000 years, and 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles spans 11 universes (a few more years I’d say). The main character of Reincarnation Blues has a central love relationship with Suzie, or Death; the heroine of 1001 interacts with her qaraq, a group of souls that have reincarnated together lifetime after lifetime, weaving a tangle of karma.
Perhaps the biggest difference is that whereas 1001 can be heady, an intricate puzzle full of hidden structures, Mr. Poore speaks from the heart about basic values of the soul, a search for rightness and compassion in the midst of some very dark worlds. I could use a little less of the gruesome scenes, despite their narrative clarity and Vonnegutian spirit, but I happily followed Milo’s soul journey to the fullest love, dharma, and perfection.
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