Reincarnation Blues

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 23 Oct 2017

Member Reviews

I saw a review somewhere that described this book as a "light summer read." In my opinion, that is inaccurate. 

This book is quite funny at times, quite touching at others, and quite disturbing every once in awhile. That's because it's about the human experience and what it means to live a life (and, hopefully, to live it well.) The reality is people are messy and complicated and sometimes cruel to each other, but they can also be loving, selfless, and wise. Our hero, Milo experiences all of these things in his many lifetimes, and its through that lens that we can learn a little about ourselves and the life we've been given. Like life, this book doesn't serve up a "beach read" smooth and pleasant ride. It gives us an honest one, and that's what makes it, in my opinion, so much more than a "light summer read."

I've also seen a review that took this book to task for it's understanding of religious philosophy. I'd challenge that review as well. I never once assumed that this book was telling us THE truth about the afterlife, Buddhist philosophy, or heaven. It is telling us A truth. If you're willing to accept that truth for a little while and go along for the ride, you may find this book enjoyable. If not, this book will likely bug you. 

Basically I felt like reading this book was akin to spending time with a wise elder who has many epic stories to tell. There are some types of people who are happy to wait for those types of stories to unspool because they understand it will make the payoff more satisfying and it will likely reveal some interesting truths. Other types of people would be bored to tears, antsy for an immediate payoff and some cool action scenes to combat boredom while they get to it. This book would appeal more to the former type of person. 

One quibble before I go. I didn't enjoy the ending of this book. I'm still giving it all the stars anyway because my beef was more with the artistic choice the author made, not his ability to write about that choice.
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[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]

Wow.  Just wow.  I have had my share of duds from NG lately, and was not prepared to be so blown away by this one.

Milo has lived 9,995 lives and only has 5 more left to achieve Perfection or be sent back to nothingness.  No more lives, no more existing, just nothing.  He's also in love with one of the Death characters, who goes by Suzie.  He's determined to achieve Perfection in his last five lives, but doesn't really want his life with Suzie to end.

I enjoyed the little snippets of past lives we get between the "big 5," because they give you an idea of what Milo has experienced and done in his previous 9,995.  But these last five, oh boy are they incredible.  Well, most of them are.  #3 isn't amazing, but the rest certainly are.

I said in my updates that the first of the five lives (beginning in chapter 10 - yes, it does take 10 chapters to really get going) was one of the best things I've read all year.  It's true that this first life we experience was something emotional and powerful for me.  I was reminded slightly of Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles when I read it, it was just in the vibe of the story for me.  Hard choices and all that.  At the end when Milo ends up back in the afterlife, we find out why he did not achieve perfection in that life.  Yep, it was definitely not perfect.  But he tried.

Life #2 begins in chapter 14, and it's definitely a doozy.  There's a lot to unpack here and Milo *almost* gets it.  Of course, we know that he's not going to make Perfection with three lives to go.  There has to be a reason we start at life 9,995 and it's because yes, it takes all five for us to see where Milo ends up.  Life #2 is brutal in a way I never expected.  Milo is subjected to pain and dehumanizing terror before he manages to turn things around, and it's hard to read.  But it's an important lesson on how much a human can take, especially one nearing the end of his chances.

Life #3 follows four chapters later, and there's something wrong with this body's brain.  We see it immediately, and it's sad and a little scary.  Again, he gets close - not nearly as close as in the last two lives, but he starts down the path.  Unfortunately, yet again, he doesn't make it.

Life #4 - This one was kind of bland.  We start to see Milo getting there, and in the end you think maybe he did make it.  He did something that made so much sense, but still... 

Life #5 - This is the one that felt most epic and gut-wrenching.  The sheer amount of brutality that Milo and the people around him endure in order to bring about a more lasting peace... By the end of the (very long) chapter, I was a wreck.  Did he achieve Perfection?  And what does Perfection even entail once you're through those golden Sun Doors?

It's hard for me to review this without spoilers.  I don't want to talk about Suzie's relationship with Milo too much because I feel like the entire thing is about spoilers.  Suffice to say, I liked what happened and how it ended.  It was a surprise, at least (their relationship and its consequences, not whether Milo achieved perfection - I thought that would be a given from the start).

There were some faults with the book, namely the dialogue and the way it skips around in time in the last chapter with no real delineation or anything (I blame formatting for that one), but I found myself overlooking almost all of my problems in favor of the overarching story and appreciating it solely based on how breathtaking it was.  There were a lot of hard things to swallow, the terror and hardships that Milo and most of the people around him experienced, but it was so worth it.  Even his time in the afterlife between lives was interesting and compelling.  There are some elements of dystopian SF in here, some historical fantasy, but overall it's just a great read.  Highly recommended.
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I enjoyed a lot of this book, especially its humor, and the story of its central character fighting suffering and exploitation over lives and lifetimes—in between living relaxing lives of very little purpose. It has a lot going on, which is both a strength and a weakness. Obviously a book about a soul living thousands of lives is going to be varied, but I would say its weakness is a tendency to drop narrative threads too often, even important and interesting ones. Another weakness is its own confusion about what, exactly, Suzie/Death is and what that means—one of the threads that's dropped without a trace is a sort of Milo-as-Persephone thing, and as the book goes on Suzie becomes less godlike and more like a pretty ordinary woman who doesn't like her job, losing a lot of what initially made their relationship interesting.
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Funny and charming and ultimately sweet and slightly heart-breaking. I loved the the premise of us all having 10,000 chances to achieve perfection.

Thanks to Netgalley for the arc to review.
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I though this was such a unique book! Each life Milo lives was such fun to read. It was neat to see lives not only thousands of years in the past but also far into the future.  My favorites were the one where he was falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned and the one with the water cartel.  Through all the lives (or after) there is Suzie and each time Milo remembers his love for her.  Good read!
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Anyone who knows me even slightly will tell you I’m all about Zen, if you can’t figure it out for yourself in the first five minutes of conversation. In both my professional and personal social media, I often share quotes, proverbs, teachings, and things I’ve learned that have helped me let go of suffering. 

And now I can share this beautiful, hilarious, and heartbreaking book.

Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is full of cosmicly perfect contradictions: glorious, insane, ridiculous, divine, fragmented, and undeniably whole. At heart it’s a simple coming-of-age love story, but because our protagonist, Milo, takes ten thousand lifetimes to get where the universe wants him to go – and from the viewpoint of the afterlife, linear time is a human construct, so we bounce around past, present, and future as he tries to get it right one more time – the novel is also remarkably complex. It moves from ridiculous to sublime and back, again and again, and I can honestly say I both laughed and cried while reading. Sometimes both at the same time. Because even the sad bits were beautiful, particularly toward the end. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it can be summed up by one quote I absolutely love: 

“Maybe you couldn’t get people to stop being predators, but you could get them to stop being prey.”

In some ways, the novel is less a novel than a collection of fairytales for grown-ups, around a central idea – the power of choice – with the same (but different every time) protagonist. In Milo’s journey to find a way to be with his true love while also attaining “perfection” so he can stop being reincarnated and avoid oblivion, we see him at his best and worst, exalted and lowly, selfish and compassionate. Poore excels at making every moment of the book do triple or quadruple duty: every life adds something to Milo’s overall progress, shows us who he is in a wide variety of circumstances, illustrates human foibles as well as the human capacity for greatness (also in a wide variety of circumstances), and is wildly, uniquely entertaining. 

Poore’s style is a joy to read, at times playful and sleek, at others muscular and somber, but always graceful and nuanced. I’m a picky reader when it comes to sentence craft, and I never once was pulled out of the story by an error or awkward construction. I’d offer blessings on the author’s head for that alone, but he also managed to create characters I loved and cared about while telling a terrific story and sharing some lovely but never preachy philosophical insights.

Krishna devotees believe they can pass on good karma through food that’s been prepared with love and spiritual awareness, and that’s how I think about Reincarnation Blues. People may read it just for the captivating story, but whether they know it or not they’ll be soaking up spiritual goodness with every word.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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This book was incredible. I loved Milo and Suzie. My belief about the afterlife is exactly the same as the one espoused in the book. It was really cool reading about it in such a humorous, but pointed way. I loved the way we went through so many of Milo's lives. Each one was so different and unique. I loved that we saw him in good lives and in bad ones. I I also thought Suzie was a great character. This afterworld is one in which I would love to find myself. I probably would never leave! I thought it had shades of Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore, and The Alchemist in it, all of which I love! The prose was excellent and the character development was great..
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I really bad wanted to like this book. And I did.

Until the 25% mark.

Almost precisely at the 25% mark, the book became burdensome drudgery. I think chapter 14 should be renamed The Never Ending Chapter.

As much as I hate–HATE–quitting a book I’ve started reading, I simply couldn’t push forward any longer and quit at the 43% mark. That’s somewhere in the never-ending chapter 14.

Prior to chapter 14, the chapters were a good-feeling length with steady pacing. Chapter 13 tested my patience, but I stuck it out. Sometimes you just have to draw the line somewhere.

Reincarnation Blues starts out very promising and interesting. It tells the story of Milo, who has been reincarnated just short of 10,000 times. He has until life number 10,000 to reach Perfection. When (and if) he reaches Perfection, he no longer has to reincarnate and can forever be with Death (who goes by Suzie), the love of his life.

The first dozen chapters are solid keepers. But with chapter 13 something gets derailed. The chapters turn into slow-paced, (overly?) detailed accounts of Milo’s past lives.

Reincarnation is a concept I am interested in and read about often, and that’s why I wanted to read this book. Maybe the problem is that I’m not a fantasy reader. To me, it seems that perhaps around chapter 12 or 13 is where the story really seemed to change from general fiction with a mix of sci-fi to fantasy.

I’m betting that the conclusion pulls everything together and Milo’s seemingly irrelevant past lives are proven not only relevant but important. But I just couldn’t hack it.

That said, I did like the author’s voice and writing style. If you like fantasy, you should give Reincarnation Blues a read. If you’re only mildly into fantasy, it’s probably a skip.
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I got an early review copy of Reincarnation Blues, being released in August, and it was seriously good. Like, sometimes I get these review copies and the book is terribad but this was a gem.

It's the story of Milo who's be reincarnated nearly 10,000 times as people, plants, and animals but never achieved his perfect moment of transcendence that breaks him from the cycle of reincarnation. The story takes place in the distant past, the relative present, and far flung future is what is almost like a collection of connected short stories but maintains the narrative thread and wry humor throughout.

I really loved this book and encourage ya'll to pick up a copy in August when it gets released.
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Witty, painful, and a fascinating look at reincarnation. Milo has been reincarnated more than any other human. He’s been enjoying his lives and becoming wise though not quite achieving perfection (the ultimate goal)—which is fine because he is absolutely in love with Death (who’d rather just be called Suzi and ultimately would like to settle down and run a candle shop). Unfortunately, come to find out there’s actually a limit on how many chances you get at perfection. Sounds strange? Yes, it is. But it turns out to be a moving and lovely story about becoming the best person you can be, love, meditation and the journey of life.
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I was certainly intrigued when I saw a starred review in Kirkus for a book about reincarnation where Death, one of the main characters, is also known as Suzie. This set the tone for the entire wild ride for me. 

Milo has 5 lives left out of his limit of 10,000 to reach perfection, and he is in love with Death, a.k.a Suzie who he only meets in-between lives. There is never a dull moment, and while both Milo and Suzie are guilty at times of conversations more likely attributable to teenagers than the wisest souls in existence, I really had fun with the book. This is not literary fiction, my usual genre, but I enjoyed the creativity of this book. There are beautiful moments:

"Living in the ocean was half-dreamlike, an act of worship without the complication of gods."

"The universe twisted around and flipped her out of there, reminding her, in its way, that she was Death, not Rain or Mercy." 

There are both very touching moments (oh - the whale!) and times where I laughed out loud, and I look forward to reading more from Michael Poore.
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This book was so different from any other I have ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed following the various lives Milos lived, whether in the past or the future. The author created a number of curious and interesting ways for the main character, Milo, to die. Overall, great story, or maybe I should say stories.
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