Reincarnation Blues

I was looking for a light read to bring with me on my latest hiking trip in parc national de la Jacques-Cartier and parc national de la Mauricie, and it felt as though Michael Poore's Reincarnation Blues was just what the doctor ordered. I was hooked on the premise as soon as I received the novel and intrigued enough to move it quite near to the top of my rotation of books to read.

I had never read anything by this author before, but this seemed to be a unique idea and I was looking forward to reading something totally different from what's out there these days. Sadly, after a great start that was very promising, Poore sort of lost control of his story and everything appeared to drift a bit aimlessly for a while. So much so that I had more or less lost interest before the end came. Which is a shame, as Reincarnation Blues seemed destined to be another winner like Daryl Gregory's Spoonbenders. Alas. . .

Here's the blurb:

First we live. Then we die. And then . . . we get another try?

Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Ten thousand lives to “get it right.” Answer all the Big Questions. Achieve Wisdom. And Become One with Everything.

Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her.

More than just Milo’s lover throughout his countless layovers in the Afterlife, Suzie is literally his reason for living—as he dives into one new existence after another, praying for the day he’ll never have to leave her side again.

But Reincarnation Blues is more than a great love story: Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle—if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd, and heartbreaking.

Because it’s more than Milo and Suzie’s story. It’s your story, too.

The worldbuilding is decidedly uneven. Some chapters follow Milo in the afterlife, while others focus on his countless reincarnations. The timeline is all over the place, with chapters taking place centuries in the past and others fast-forward centuries into the future. It follows no logical chronology, which can have weird repercussions on the main story arc. Some of these reincarnation plotlines are brilliantly written, but others are a mess and it felt as though the author was winging it and had no idea where he was going with his tale. The premise gave Michael Poore countless opportunities to showcase his imagination, yet many of Milo's reincarnations felt flat due to what ultimately was poor execution on the author's part. There are some awesome parts in this novel. Trouble is, there is also a lot of uninspired and lackluster material that often sends everything else down the crapper.

Although his heart is in the right place (most of the time at least), there is no denying that Milo is a slacker and kind of a prick. And while it's so easy and fun to root for him at the beginning of the novel, each new reincarnation makes him lose more of his luster and it gets to the point when the reader simply loses interest in Milo's plight. I particularly enjoyed Suzie's perspective, but it wasn't enough to reel me back in once I sort of gave up on Milo. The supporting cast doesn't feature any memorable secondary characters, I'm afraid. Mama and Nan had potential, but they're never really developed. The dark and witty humor that works so well at the start of the book gradually loses its magic as the story progresses. Indeed, you go from multiple chuckles throughout each chapter to a point where you disengage and just want the story to end.

Weighing in at 374 pages, Reincarnation Blues is not a big novel. One would think that such a book wouldn't suffer from pacing issues, but it is unfortunately the case. Following a great beginning, it appears that Michael Poore ran out of fun and ingeniously clever ideas for Milo's subsequent reincarnations. As a result, the main story arc peters out, plagued by a few way-too-long chapters that irremediably kills whatever traction and momentum the storylines had going for them. Trimmed down by perhaps fifty pages or so, things might have worked a lot better overall.

In the end, by the time the last reincarnation comes and goes, I was so disconnected from the plot that Milo's fate left me almost totally indifferent. Which is too bad, as Reincarnation Blues had a lot of potential. I fear that Poore enjoyed his own cleverness a bit too much and went all out in a way that was detrimental to what lies at the heart of the tale: Milo and Suzie's love story.

It's an often fun and witty sort of novel, no doubt about it. And yet, attempting to cram too much humor and strange reincarnation stories ultimately spoiled the execution and resulted into a bit of a mess that failed to live up to the potential Reincarnation Blues showed early on.

The final verdict: 6.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

Follow this link to read an extract from the book.

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