Reincarnation Blues

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 23 Oct 2017

Member Reviews

Lovely read; so glad that I was given the chance to read a copy of it.
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As Neil Gaiman is an auto-buy author of mine and this book got compared to his type of storytelling, it should be no surprise that I decided to try Michael Poore's Reincarnation Blues out. In all honesty, even without that comparison, I still would have because the premise sounded intriguing enough that I wanted to find out what sort of person Milo was after 10,000 lifetimes and what happened to him over those lifetimes that led to his trying to reunite with Death and made him into whoever/whatever he was at the end of the book.

    This is a story about a wise man named Milo.

    It begins on the day he was eaten by a shark.



As an opening, this might not sound like a great beginning for Milo, but to be perfectly frank, it wasn't what I was expecting and it elicited a chuckled from myself. I thought I, as the reader, was off to a fairly good start.

There are glimpses right away as to what kind of person Milo is now. After thousands upon thousand of lifetimes, he's gathered a lot of knowledge together and is somewhat sought after for it. He lives a relatively quite life on his fishing boat, taking people out on excursions that, more often than not, turn into quests for information or solutions to their problems rather than a quest for the perfect catch of fish.

This particular life, being the first that we are introduced to as readers, hit me the hardest. While there wasn't a lot of time to get used to Milo as a character, he was the main person and there was a sense of peace I drew from him, from his insight into himself and others, his dog Burt and his friend Arlene at the hospital he took care of that morning. It, frankly, sucked to let this "him" go.

    His last words were "No! Fuck! No!"



I appreciated that this book was brutally honest and still funny. You think your last words, or the words of some guy that's lived tens of thousands of lives, are going to be poetic? Well, odds are as evidence by those of Milo's above, they aren't. Maybe, but there are no guarantees.

After meeting Milo and getting the gist of who he is, we're flung into the rest of his journey. There is insight into more of his deaths, some far more preferable than others, though are any really preferred? In any case, Reincarnation Blues takes us all over the world, including California, Sudan, China, and Vienna, among others, all looking toward reuniting with Death. It's a complicated journey and while Milo makes comments on the times he's known about the end coming, the times he's been able to prepare such as it were, and the times the end has been a true shock (only once), it made me think about what the readers of this book would think about their own lives.

Aside from the depths of the story itself, the writing style lent itself to this series of lives in a way that going from one to the next never felt rough, never felt like I was missing something. Some of the lives were shorter than others, yes, but they didn't feel cut off unnecessarily.

Would you want to know the end? Is being able to plan preferable or does it take away from living the life you've been given this time? I think a lot of it depends on what your view of the afterlife or afterlives is, but whatever that view might be, I think reading about Milo's journey offers a lot of emotion that will resonate with people. There's not just Milo on his journey, but a shark who was once a Strawberry Queen and more. Who might you have once been in this world? Who would you be in Milo's position? Food for thought, that.
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I have not loved a book as much in a long time! This story is a smorgasbord of elements: Science Fiction, Historical, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Dystopian. It is one of those title so packed with intricately woven details, you want to instantly flip to the first page and re-read to find all the things you may have missed the first time around. It was a very satisfying read for me.
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3.5 stars

How to describe this book? Some say fantasy (I always think fantasy has to include a dragon) others say sci fi. I'll just say it's very imaginative and moves fast--too fast to ever get hold of the ever reincarnating Milo and his beloved Suzie (please don't call her Death.) Milo has been slacking from one reincarnated form to another 9,995 times, and has just realized that he only has five more tries to get it right or, BLAM!, oblivion awaits. 

It's a funny premise, and Matthew Poore is a sprightly writer. But I felt like I got the joke and then enough was enough. I'm giving Reincarnation Blues 3.5 stars because this is a very off the wall story and there are parts that delight with their sheer outrageousness and fun. I'll look forward to his next outing!

~~Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader
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Reincarnation Blues was a pleasure to read. It’s about a man living the last of his 10,000 lives; trying to live a perfect life. This book allows you have a look at some of the lives that Milo lives in between romantic trysts with Death (Suzie).

Milo at the end of the world (before the meteor strikes Earth) is my favorite Milo, and I would love to read an entire book about him, his wife and his daughter. It was also fun to read about Suzie having somewhat of an existential crisis in regards to her job.

This book was a bit longer than it needed to be to get the point of the story and the philosophy across to the reader, but I liked it.
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It started out strong and interesting, but got dark and bogged down pretty quickly.  I got lost and then lost interest.  Good if you have a long attention span.
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Just from reading the summary of Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore, I could tell it was going to be a story unlike any other I'd read before, and it did not disappoint. We, the readers, get to experience all of Milo's 9,995 lives on his quest for perfections, and the variety of fuck ups that occur along the way. I especially loved how the stories of his lives weren't told in chronological order and differed in length, although I did find some to drag on longer then others. The book itself has a very unique sense of humor in the writing, and I think Poore does a fantastic job of expressing that humor through Milo and creating a character that every reader can come to love and feel sympathy for. I also thought that the romance between Milo and Death--I mean Suzie--was really unique in the way that they've been together for several thousand years, but are only able to be with each other in between Milo's lives. All in all I give Reincarnation Blues four out of five stars for being fun, quirky, and unique, but also slow at times. I highly recommend Reincarnation Blues to fans of sci-fi and fantasy who are looking for something fresh and new and exciting.
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A mixture of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Cloud Atlas, Reincarnation Blues was deeply thought provoking and whimsical. I really wanted to like it, but found myself repulsed at times. I can appreciate it and understand why others might love this book, but sadly, it wasn't for me.
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Loved this book. Hard to categorize, it's part mystical, part sci-fi; it reads like a series of short stories and is really, really funny. The main character has only five lives left to live to reach perfection or dissolve into nothingness. We get to hear alot about lessons learned and mistakes made and famous people met n the previous 9,995. and then we journey thru his last five with him in detail. Oh, and there's a great love story that happens between lives. With Death, of course (a.k.a. Suzie). it's an awesome ride.
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A wonderful and inventive tale about love and death (aka Suzie). Poore wins the reader over quickly with his witty yet poignant writing, and takes them on a ride they won't soon forget!
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A good portion of the books I read are review copies, and while I’ve come to enjoy the chaos and unpredictability of reading books where I have zero expectations, there are definitely times where I’ve considered giving it up. (Why, yes, these times often correspond with long streaks of bad books – how did you know?) All of which goes to say, the joy of reviewing is that sometimes you get a book like Reincarnation Blues that can completely blindside you, coming out of nowhere and blowing you away with its imagination, humor, style, and richness.

Trying to describe Reincarnation Blues is a bit of a rough task; the best I can do is to say that it combines the millennia-spanning reincarnated souls of Cloud Atlas with the untraditional but rich love story of The Time Traveler’s Wife, with a rich sprinkling of humor that’s oh so welcome. But even that description doesn’t really do the book justice – it doesn’t convey the richness of the storytelling, the quiet silliness, and most of all, the pure warmth of the whole experience.

Reincarnation Blues is the story of a soul named Milo, who’s among the oldest souls in the universe – he’s been reincarnated nearly 10,000 times. That’s given Milo an incredible amount of experience and learning, with lives lived in the ancient past, the distant future, and everywhere in between. But Milo’s favorite parts of existence are the parts in between his lives, where he gets the chance to reunite with the love of his “life”: Suzie…also known as Death. And once you add to that the impending threat of oblivion – because any soul that hasn’t achieved enlightenment by incarnation #10,000 doesn’t get another chance – and there’s a lot of pressure on Milo to figure some things out.

And yet, Reincarnation Blues never feels like a high pressure book. Yes, there’s this deadline looming, and yes, there’s this complicated idea of having a romance with the incarnation of Death, but Reincarnation Blues remains focused, both in plot and thematic terms, on the nature of the human experience – on learning to be kind, on listening to other people, on trying to accept the universe for what it is. It’s a book that’s never really about all of Milo’s lives, despite the way it weaves in and out all of them, giving us scenes of combat, of peace, of future science, of primitive tribes, and every possible combination of all of those. It’s about what Milo did and learned in those lives, and the experiences that shaped him into the person he is.

And yet, there’s no denying that Poore’s incredible imagination gives the book a life that’s undeniable, and maybe all the more effective for how he backgrounds it throughout. More than that, the way he weaves all of Milo’s lives into one complex history – with actions in one life being referenced in another – give the sense of a complex mythology behind the book, a carefully planned out reality that we only get glimpses of. Add to that his quietly funny, sometimes silly writing style, and you have a book that succeeds in no small part to the authorial craft on display in every page.

But more than the imagination, more than the humor, what really made Reincarnation Blues work for me was the warmth of the whole novel. This is a book where the stakes revolve around finding a successful relationship and achieving some sort of internal peace and calm with the universe. And to that end, for all of the drama, for all of the stakes in each individual life that Milo leads, the book is more about connecting to other people, about learning the importance of how we relate to each other and the legacies we leave behind. That’s a great message to receive, but also a rich one, one that’s so welcome in days where we feel constantly pushed against each other. And it’s the thing that really sold me on this book – that, and the great writing, and the rich imagination, and the wonderful characters, and the great humor…well, maybe I just loved all of it, and loved it so much.
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Reincarnation Blues
By Michael Poore

Impressions

From this author’s pen comes thousands of worlds and countless lifetimes. 

Because the author takes us on an enlightening journey filled with persuasive tales of past lives…one could describe this work as a montage. But that assumption would be wrong. This is a continuation of tales masterfully strung together about an old soul name Milo. His need is to live countless lives on a journey to possess spiritual “perfection”.

His struggles of eight thousand years ambitiously told with disparate story lines spans time and space. The biggest reveal in this read is the amazing ways this author makes Milo’s many lifetimes an easy read. His character remains true and easily identifiable; I was able to relate to his struggles. The book is crammed with well-described soulful passages that compel and repel. It is also a harsh reminder of how cruel humanity has always been.

Each life composing this soul’s journey promoted an addiction to living. Each meandering from the passage to perfection with life’s revelries of lust, loves, wealth, selfishness, selflessness, anger, and the universes was rewarded often with a myriad of punishments. Not every reincarnating was pleasant or necessary.  Amidst all of it, his growing love for Death came easy to understand. 

If only

Death is Suzie and she is calm beautiful, patient intelligent and a seeker as well. Their story of mutual desire and love lasting 8,000 years warms the spirit. 

Reading this book begs the question. If every soul wrote his own unending story, how many unending lifetimes would be a worthy subject for a great literary work? The author presents a kind of impermanence in carnal life. The reader may find their own material understandings in more than a few passages about Milo’s incarnations.

There comes an understanding 

My favorite life story is of Milo as a builder of Arks. Enlisted to build a Noah’s theme Ark, Milo and his family must come to terms with a dying Earth. These words are so defining of spirits dying long before their body. 

“An eight-year-old who had seen the plague approach her village, take her family, and then crawl down her own throat.” From Reincarnation Blues

My favorite character in this read is Suzie. She is Death and powerful. But an eternity of it and the love of a man named Milo sparked a yearning for more. To no longer “be” the ender of life. Eons of being a god of death finally evolved to a need for Suzie’s own realizations of peace and perfection.

Story/Plot/Conflict
Milo arrived into the world the first time and many thousands of times after as an ordinary baby.  And with each incarnation, his soul experienced events that shaped his journey to become enlightened.

But the thing is that reincarnation is addictive, especially when your soul understands that Death is a friend and lover. This offers Milo countless more chances to get it right.  But even addictions become boring after eight thousand years and one comes to recognize the need to achieve “Perfection”.  

Turns out its harder than it looks because nestled within each life lies the needs for pleasure, selfish luxuries, and endless love. Milo’s spiritual passage to “Perfection” is compromised with obstacles. His “soul pecker” seems to circumvent efforts in achieving a selfless life and an enlightened soul.

Main Characters

Milo becomes the oldest of the old souls who finds reincarnation is not only necessary but also addictive. And it brings him the one love worth all his lives.

Suzi (Death) how can a bringer of the end come to be all things to a single man? She was sensual, feeling, brilliant loving and best of all, she was there wanting for him at the end of each lifetime. 

Genre: General audiences and a good read.
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The book's premise is fairly interesting - it’s about a man (Milo) who has been reincarnated nearly 10,000 times. I know the book summary talks about his search to be with his beloved, but he’s not really aiming for that. He’s aiming to reach Perfection. He also just happens to be in a relationship with Death. 

Reincarnation Blues is interesting & almost reads like an anthology. Every life Milo has is its own little story. They’re individual in plot and could be small standalones in some aspects. And with all anthologies come stories that we love, and stories we can do without. That’s how I felt about Milo’s lives that were showcased. 

When we are introduced to Milo, he has lived 9,995 lives and only has 5 more left to achieve Perfection. If he doesn’t, he’ll become nothingness. No more lives or existing. It’s doesn’t help that he’s in love with Death aka Suzie. She’s a complication because if he only has 5 more lives, how is he supposed to be with her to the end? And of course, life is all about that pursuit of happiness, knowledge, and hard choices. 

The book itself is fiction, but sometimes historical, sometimes fantasy, dystopian, and science-fiction. Poore’s definitely a creative and a philosopher of sorts. Reincarnation Blues definitely makes you think. I had a great time with the idea of this novel, but it loses steam in the middle if you’re preoccupied. Lives blend together, and nothing new is revealed for a few chapters. Suzie’s part could have been more engaging too. I felt like she wasn’t super evolved.  Poore could have dialed up certain aspects. It almost tried to be too many things. Go for the whacky humor or go philosophical/sentimental. It tried to be both and missed on both fronts. 

Despite the flaws, it’s a fun read. I’d definitely recommend for someone feeling a bit of everything in a book. 

Reincarnation Blues: 3.75
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Thanks Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and netgalley for this ARC.

This book just didn't keep my interest. I never finished it.
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“Every life has something to teach you. Chances for you to learn and grow and eventually become perfect. It may take thousands of lives.” 
Milo is a man who has died and been reincarnated almost ten thousand times. He is truly an “old soul”  who needs to reach perfection soon because he has only a few remaining  lives left to “get it right”.
The book is a collection of stories of Milo’s past lives that sometimes occur in our future time as well. I have always been fascinated by the concept of reincarnation so this book was an easy choice for me.  I was entertained and quite interested in the author’s most unusual perspective of the afterlife and his descriptive humor and the many tales of Milo’s adventurous lives.  I now have a new perspective on what being an old soul can really mean!  This was a different and enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy with a  reincarnation theme.  I was able to review an ARC of this book thanks to  Netgalley and the publisher.  This is my honest review.
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Reincarnation Blues is definitely an ambitious novel, taking on a high-concept premise, zany and scattered style and weighty theme - that being, what is the meaning of a life well-lived? 

Milo, our slacker-dude protagonist, has lived 9,995 lives, with varying degrees of success, but mostly coasting and spending the interludes between lives with his girlfriend, Death (AKA Suzie). Trouble is, Milo's just found out there's a 10,000 life limit on this reincarnation biz and now he's only got 5 tries remaining to achieve a perfect life or his soul will be snuffed out forever. Dude!

Because time is non-linear (obvs) this is also kind of a time travel story, since Milo's next life could be anywhen. As a result the story jumps around in time, but much of it takes place in a sci-fi future, after the colonisation of our solar system. There's also some Bill & Ted style interaction with historical figures, like the Buddha. No way!

There's a lot going on and if all of that sounds up your alley, then it's a fun & entertaining read. For my money, I think Reincarnation Blues would have been a better book if it had picked a lane: Dial it up to eleven and go for full-on wacky absurdist humour; OR tamp down the crazy a bit and flesh out the philosophical and/or sentimental message. It seems to be aiming down the middle and just narrowly misses both marks.

Reincarnation Blues might be a bit overstuffed, but it's imaginative, a good bit of fun and a refreshing change of pace.
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For a little over the first ten percent of this story, I thought, okay, got it, guy has lived thousand of lives and he's supposed to move on, but he's in love with typical manic pixie dream girl, this iteration of her being Death, who calls herself Suzie. 

I don't like manic pixie dream girls. Most of the time their main component is their sexual attraction, which makes these Holly Golightlys endlessly fascinating to those responsive to their lure.

I found Suzie yet another really boringly quirky M.P.D.G. and every few pages (usually when she came on scene) I kept checking to see how far I'd read, and inwardly groaning. 

Then Milo dives into another life that shoots the storyline orthogonally into unexpected territory and I found myself deeply immersed. And yet again it happened, in a completely different existence--and meanwhile, M.P.D.G. actually faces consequences of her actions, which most of them don't. She, too, became interesting. And the side characters were all memorable--Poore never lets even the briefest walk-on become cardboard.

"All good parents taught their kids this same lesson: if everyone agreed to suffer pain or death rather than be treated unjustly, greedy people could never again gain power.

'We've had fifty generations of justice now,' they told the children. 'Don't be the generation that blows it.'"

The theme is human struggle, the setting the entire world, and imagined worlds beyond, all through time. Poore does a magnificent job with Milo's search for perfection, and what that might be; he follows Milo and Suzie through a kaleidoscope of experience, never losing sight of the full range of human potential, good and bad. Harrowing and breathtakingly uplifting. Sad and funny, gross and wise.

Poore's writing is tight, brilliantly vivid, and a pleasure to read. I'm so glad I persisted.
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Five chances to reach Perfection. Can you do it?

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but it far surpassed anything I had in mind. Reincarnation Blues is insanely imaginative. As someone who loves world-building, it was a real treat because there are multiple worlds and multiple realities surrounding the protagonist, Milo, and his true love, Death aka Suzie. It's witty and clever but not try-hard or obnoxious. There is a humor to the whole book but there is also a deep sense of insight and into life as a journey itself. It was thought-provoking and poignant while being entertaining, not an easy feat. 

Reincarnation as a topic in fiction is so easily done badly but this book is perfection. No matter what situation he finds himself in, Milo keeps his voice the whole story and I found myself really rooting for him, even when he lived a not-so-good life. I really enjoyed the not-chronological telling of the story of Milo's past lives because I think it enhanced the reincarnation idea. All in all, it's one of my favorite reads of 2017 and I can't wait to check out more of Poore's work.

Note: I received a free Kindle edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, and the author Michael Poore for the opportunity to do so.
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Reincarnation is a topic ubiquitous in religion and philosophy.  Even those that do not subscribe to the specific idea of a soul being reborn after death in a new form often have groups or factions within that refer directly to it or mention it in some way.  Regardless of the form it takes, the idea is the same:  be a good person, but don’t sweat it.  Nobody’s perfect, just do the best you can.  Death may be a person’s final act, but the soul lives on to be reborn as another person, or tree, or in poor Milo’s case, the occasional bug.

 

Reincarnation Blues is the second full length effort from author Michael Poore, and the first to get the hardcover treatment from Del Rey.  Reincarnation Blues follows a similar thread to Poore’s previous work, Up Jumps the Devil (Ecco, 2012), but manifested in a vastly different way.

 

Milo has lived 9,995 times and is perhaps the oldest soul in existence.  The evident goal of reincarnation is to give souls a chance to achieve Perfection, an act of selfless love and sacrifice for the greater good, at which point they ascend into the great Oversoul and become one with the Universe.  It sounds cheesy, and Milo agrees.  He’s never been too keen on transcending his humdrum existence, moving from life to death and spending the time in between with his eternal girlfriend and one true love, Suzie, an incarnation of Death itself.  That is, until Milo learns that he only has five more tries to get it right.

 

Yes, apparently the upper limit for a soul is 10,000 tries, at which point it is “canceled like a dumb TV show,” to quote Nan, one of Milo’s pair of cosmic Jiminy Crickets.  With a renewed sense of purpose and urgency, Milo doubles down on his efforts, and attempts to use his last four lives as best he can to attain Perfection, while juggling the implications for his millennia-long relationship with Suzie.

 

Kirkus Reviews claims that Poore’s latest is “akin to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman as penned by a kindred spirit of Douglas Adams.”  This is the first time I’ve quoted another review largely because I can’t conceive of a more succinct way to summarize this book.  There are elements of Gaiman (perhaps more Good Omens than Sandman) and perhaps a less elegant Douglas Adams but the influence is obvious nonetheless.  The format, however, is what excited me most.

 

 Reincarnation Blues is as much a collection of short stories as it is a complete novel.  Milo’s eternal mostly eternal existence in the afterlife serves as a convenient frame while his reincarnated lives are each separate into their own vignettes.  This sort novel recalls Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad or Italo Calvino’s mind-bending If on a winter’s night, a traveler… both of which were much better written.

 

That’s not to say that Poore completely misses the mark, but the prose is weak at times, and the overall effect of transitioning from one life to the next can be jarring.  Milo, who can choose which life he lives, can elect to be born at any point in time and space across all human existence, so why do we always find him in the generically sci-fi somewhat-distant-future?  Moreover, the reincarnation process itself is mechanically trotted out time and again, with as little development as Milo himself.  This repetition feels like a missed opportunity at best, and is, at the worst, downright lazy.  Lastly, Poore’s attempts at levity occasionally proved a bit too casual for my taste.

 

Towards the conclusion of the novel and with Milo’s final lives, things took a turn for the worse and become very dark.  Visions of the tragically tortured life of a prisoner, morally ambiguous situations with difficult choices, and horrifically abused slaves left me wondering exactly what sort of story I was reading.  Even the cosmic beings themselves admitted they’d gotten it wrong and should’ve let Milo through earlier (but wait aren’t they supposed to be Perfect?), and his ultimate ascension into the Oversoul was met with a somewhat lackluster revelation and a conclusion that felt two chapters too long.

 

On the whole, Reincarnation Blues is probably worth reading, despite its faults.  There are delightful spots of humor, large tracts of sickening tragedy, and despite a vague and altogether underwhelming conclusion, I enjoyed reading parts of it.  This is by no means a book that I will carry with me to my grave, but it’s a fun read for a long weekend.  There!  Now you can blow off that Labor Day cookout and curl up with a book.
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Milo has lived almost 10,000 lives and if he doesn’t achieve an act of “Perfection” pretty soon, he is going to get poofed into nothingness by the universe. I mean, you only get so many tries.

Suzie is his girlfriend (who happens to be Death) of 8,000 years. They have an unconventional relationship and only see each other between his lives. But, it’s pretty epic. 

Even though the story focuses on Milo and his many lives, there are actually two other major plots going on:

- Suzie’s evolution from Death to realizing she wants (and can have) more, and
- The story of their relationship (don’t worry, while this has romantic elements, it’s not a kissing book.)

We are shown the types of lives Milo has lived, chapter by chapter. A lot of the book reads like a collection of short stories. We learn about Milo’s lives hundreds of year ago and the ones that take place hundreds of years in the future, some in space and on space ships.

I felt sympathy for Milo because, if reincarnation is true, how awful is it to have to go back over and over without remembering anything in the hopes you stumble upon an act deemed as "perfection" by the universe. Not fair! :P

The book is a combination of sci-fi and philosophical, humorous fiction. The book has more in common with Douglas Adams and Tom Robbins than Carlos Castenada or Paulo Coelho. (It also kind of reminds me of Patrick deWitt, who wrote the Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor. The books are nothing alike, but there is something about the writing style…)

The first part of the book was fantastic. It was funny and quirky, poignant, and even melancholy at times. Unfortunately, I felt like the book started to lose steam in the middle and the various lives started to blend together. I felt like the story could have been easily told in fewer pages, since the additional chapters weren't really revealing anything new and was a continuation of what we had already seen. 

However, this was well-written and I really enjoyed the author’s style of writing and humor. Along with the "funneh" and eccentric vibe, there are some good nuggets about philosophy and “dharma.” I am definitely putting this author on my watch list.

Thank you Netgalley and publisher for providing a digital copy to read and review.
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