cover image Reincarnation Blues

Reincarnation Blues

Michael Poore. Del Rey, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-17848-1

Poore (Up Jumps the Devil) addresses humans’ relationship to the universe through a clever, personal story filled with gentle humor, wry sweetness, and perhaps even some wisdom. In Poore’s setup, which owes a bit to Buddhist thought but isn’t dogmatic, a person may be reincarnated up to 10,000 times in the pursuit of perfection. The narrative follows Milo, who is approaching the 10,000-reincarnation limit. His lives (and deaths) range across time and space: a prehistoric village, the traveling party of the Buddha, mundane 20th-century coupledom, radical spacefaring in a future dystopia. Between lives, the afterlife offers Milo rest, feedback from cosmic entities that manifest as cranky old women, and housing that corresponds in quality to the results of the lifetime just completed. It also lets him reconnect with his socially awkward lover, Death, whom he calls Suzie. Poore’s past and future settings are sketched with only as much detail as is needed to anchor the emotional journey of his protagonist, an empathetic, bumbling everyman whose mental voice is consistently, contemporarily American. Poole aims to amuse more than to philosophize, but his ideas about human nature and the randomness of life make this more than a time-jumping farce. (Aug.)