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Reincarnation Blues

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A magically inspiring tale of a man who is reincarnated through many lifetimes so that he can be with his one true love: Death herself.

What if you could live forever—but without your one true love? Reincarnation Blues is the story of a man who has been reincarnated nearly 10,000 times, in search of the secret to immortality so that he can be with his beloved, the incarnation of Death. Neil Gaiman meets Kurt Vonnegut in this darkly whimsical, hilariously profound, and wildly imaginative comedy of the secrets of life and love. Transporting us from ancient India to outer space to Renaissance Italy to the present day, is a journey through time, space, and the human heart.

374 pages, Hardcover

First published August 22, 2017

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About the author

Michael Poore

3 books257 followers
Michael Poore’s short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, Southern Review, Agni, Fiction, and Asimov’s. His story “The Street of the House of the Sun” was selected for The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012 . His first novel, Up Jumps the Devil , was hailed by The New York Review of Books as “an elegiac masterpiece.” Poore lives in Highland, Indiana, with his wife, poet and activist Janine Harrison, and their daughter, Jianna.

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5 stars
4,370 (33%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,054 reviews
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.6k followers
Want to read
June 12, 2022
"This is a story about a wise man named Milo. It begins on the day he was eaten by a shark."

Well then... you got my attention!

Update: Nevermind DNF 36%

I think that using the "poor young 15yo being falsely accused of rape by the prettiest girl in uni and actually goes to prison" trope is just... Ugh.
Profile Image for Robin Hobb.
Author 348 books97.6k followers
July 16, 2017
First, the Caveat: I got this book for free, as an ARC. I don't think that affects my opinion of it, but I like to be transparent. I also met the author, who seems to be a very nice fellow!

The following is NOT a negative comment. Don't read it that way.

This is not the sort of fantasy book I write, nor the kind that I most often read.

I could also say that of A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle, or Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Both are books that have well earned their places on my permanent shelf.

This is the tale of Milo, and his 10,000 reincarnations on his quest toward Perfection and escaping the wheel of reincarnation. The reader is given small tastes or summaries of some of his reincarnations. Others are more detailed. Some are from the distant past, others take place in the far future. In some Milo is a pretty nice fellow, or tree or other being, and in a few, he's not someone I'd like to spend time with.

Interspersed with his tales of reincarnation, we see Milo in the afterlife, lingering with Suzie. Suzie is someone he has come to know well, for she is the Death that comes for him at the end of each of his lives. (I don't count this as a spoiler as it is on the back cover of the book, and is also explained very early in the tale.) As their relationship warms, Milo becomes ever more eager to escape his reincarnations. But perfection is always one bad decision away.

The tale abounds in pathos and bathos, for as we know that each impending death will be the door to another reincarnation, it is hard to view them as tragic. The author knows there is humor in the dark, and does not hesitate to invoke it.

The book is written in little sections that make it the sort of tale where one reads 'just a few more' and steps out of the story 100 pages later. If you are tired of medieval quest stories or tales of brave grim dark warriors or clever young women with swords, this just might be the palate cleanser you need.

This is a stand alone book, due to be published in August 2017
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews932 followers
August 21, 2017
Reincarnation Blues is the story of Milo, or rather the many stories of Milo as he reincarnates over and over and... over again in an attempt to reach Perfection. In a variety of ways, he's fucked up every single one of the 9,995 lives he's lived thus far & now he only has 5 more tries to get it right before... well...

Also, he's in a long-term relationship with Death (who prefers to be called Suzie.)

I enjoyed this book immensely.

The concept of reincarnation has always been super interesting to me, it's almost a buzz word when I search for new books. However, there are many creative ways in which to royally screw up this concept, and so I like to go in with a healthy amount of skepticism.

I'm glad to say that in this case my skepticism was unwarranted.

Along with an intriguing premise, this novel is woven through with threads of Terry Pratchett-esque humor & absolutely bursting with creativity. I found myself giggling out loud more than a couple times.

So many unique stories are present, it's like reading a handful of novels in one. They are all individual in their plot & interesting both on their own & as part of the whole.

Poore has given life to a story that is all at once fascinating, peculiar, and hilarious.

The reason this wasn't a full five stars for me is because during the last two story arcs, I had a bit of trouble staying engaged. By comparison, I feel as though the preceding stories are much stronger than the final two.

Those stories, however, only account for a small sliver of the novel. The conclusion bounces back effortlessly, and at the end of the day I am very pleased to have read this.

I have every intention of checking out Poore's other novels after this wonderful first experience with his work! I would highly recommend this if you're looking for a hysterical & fantastical romp through time & space.

This review and other reviews of mine can be found on Book Nest!

Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017
Profile Image for Samantha.
417 reviews16.7k followers
August 18, 2019
This book is very weird and even fucked up at times, and I think I could have done with it being a bit less fucked up. But for a guy living thousands of lives, I kinda respect that there was a variety of high and low points. And weird points. I think I’ll be doing a full review on my channel of this one for more in depth thoughts.

tw: rape, torture, gore
Profile Image for Hannah.
592 reviews1,053 followers
August 22, 2017
So very wonderful and imaginative and funny and sad and brilliant and beautiful.

Milo is an old soul - he has lived 9995 lives so far and has yet to achieve perfection. In fact he isn't even sure he wants to achieve perfection as he is in love with Death (or rather a Death - Suzie). This has to change when he is informed that every soul has in fact only 10000 lives to get it right or it will be erased. This short synopsis doesn't really do the book justice but it will have to suffice because I think going into this book relatively blind worked well for me.

I adored this book and enjoyed reading it immensely. I love stories told unchronologically and this story is told in a series of interconnected glimpses into Milo's lives; some of these glimpses were very short and some a bit more elaborated and I thought this worked absolutely wonderfully.

This book combines many of the things I adore in fiction and does so in a way that feels uniquely catered to me. I am genuinely in love with this book and spent most of my time reading with a huge grin on my face. I love short stories - so I adored the longer descriptions of some of his lives so very much. In fact, the first complete life we get to spend with Milo would work brilliantly as a short story, even without the added layer of the rest of the book.

I even enjoyed the love story, which is something I do not often do. But here I found it believable and unique and essential for the story told. I was keeping my fingers crossed for Milo and Suzie to find a way to stay together and to carve out their own place for their love. This is due mostly because they were such well-drawn character in their own rights first and their relationship grew out of that.

While I enjoyed the whole book, I found the ending to be a bit weaker than the rest; however the very last chapter was beautifully executed and so it ended on a high note for me.

First sentence: "This is a story about a wise man named Milo."

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Del Rey in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!
Profile Image for Tim.
2,133 reviews200 followers
March 16, 2019
Moon nigger? 100 x 0 stars
Profile Image for Dru.
42 reviews2 followers
October 22, 2017
Wow. What a landslide into cliche and sexism or is it codependency? Summary: long-winded mediocre white male finds destiny in the womanlike creature who is like the girl from highschool he never dated and barely knew but held a torch for nonetheless. So basically an idea of a woman who has no identity outside of her lust for him. I can't discuss the remainder of the book without venom for including ideas like "giving" his wife to another man, using language like "cool dude" in a story set in BC, dads are for disapproval and lectures, moms are for background and birthing siblings ... I'm basically angry at myself for finishing this book.

I absoluely loved the first 120 pages, suffered through the remainder and found hostility creeping in one eyeroll and sneer at a time.
Profile Image for Jenne.
1,086 reviews664 followers
February 25, 2018
I mostly liked the experience of reading it... it was funny and full of good observations...but there was a definite feeling of “straight white guy wrote this”. I mean, not even one of the main lives was female?
And the big magical insight at the end was...pretty naïve at best, and actually kind of offensive.
I think you can do better.
Profile Image for Chris Johnson.
102 reviews10 followers
October 18, 2017
This was the worst book I have ever read and that's not an exaggeration. I force read this because I won it in a Goodreads giveaway and I didn't want to be unappreciative. At about page 240 I just started speed reading to get it over with. Pure Masochism.

This book reminded me of a parent making up terrible bedtime stories to their little kid off the top of their head, spewing whatever nonsense and letting random silliness flow until the kid falls asleep. The only good thing about this book was that it quickly and effectively put me into a solid sleep every night. 15 to 20 min. in and I was out like a light. I don't say that to be mean. It's what happened.

I felt no connection to Milo. I kinda keyed into Suzie. She was actually the more interesting character. It would have been good to read more stories about her. Their love story was more like a matter of fact than a visceral experience. I kept forgetting that their love connection was the main point of this thing.

This book was like a bunch of short stories crammed together and sometimes cohesion was absent. Another reviewer said this book could have been 150 pages shorter and I think It could have been 200+ pages shorter. It was like the author just wanted to get every idea he's ever had in his head on paper. I'd be reading a passage and have to re-read it 2 or 3 times because it just didn't make sense or there were details left out and I didn't understand how he got from A to B. Moreover, the gratuitous and unnecessary graphic violence was disgusting. The nail in the coffin was "Moon Niggers". ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THAT BULLS#%T?! How pathetically ignorant, tired and SUPER corny. Exactly what emotions were you trying to evoke? I'd love to know.

How did people give this anything higher than 2 stars because the struggle was real trying to get through this mess. I would not recommend this book.
Profile Image for Renee.
Author 14 books123 followers
April 9, 2018
Trigger warnings: rape and punishment by rape

So I am very disappointed in this book. I voted on it for book club thinking it would be really interesting and what it turned into was an MRA wet dream.

Let's start with Milo, a not very attractive slacker who has lived almost ten thousand lives without making it to "perfection." He's in love with death who of course is a beautiful woman who loves him and fucks him all the time and who, honestly, doesn't have much of a plot or personality aside from being Milo's love interest.

We then move the the afterlife, which is pretty interesting but the idea of gaining "perfection" to move on into the golden pool of everything is ridiculous. Milo lives plenty of lives that are really good, where he does wonderful selfless things and saves people- only to be told it's not good enough not "perfection" but hey we can't tell you what that is soo..... If you don't want to be thrown off the sidewalk into nothingness you better get it right.

Oh also, they don't tell him about the 10,000 lives dead line until he only has 5 left- dick move.

Some of his lives were interesting, some so dull/stupid I skimmed through them. (One where he wanted to be the one to claim some girl's restored virginity was fairly vile) In fact by the end I was so uninterested in Milo and Suzie (death) that I just wanted to book to be over.

Many of the concepts of this novel were interesting and unique, I did laugh a few times and there were several chapters I really enjoyed.

BUT this was the one that made me stop and say: FUCK NO.

So I don't know, read this if it sounds good to you and let me know what you thought. I'm giving it two stars- mainly for original concept.

Profile Image for Sarah.
44 reviews
September 25, 2017

It was a horrible book even without the rape, but my god. Please don't waste a single cent on this. This book holds the unique distinction of being one of only two books I have ever actually thrown away--not given away or stored, but actually trashed. Multiple rapes of a 15 year old. Just awful.

Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,975 followers
January 30, 2022
What a delightful book!

The oldest human soul (a perpetual fuck-up that should have moved on LONG AGO) has loved Death, or at least the Power's incarnation, and she loves him back. It's sweet.

Of course, it's not all roses. Indeed, once you get to the 10k year mark of reincarnation, you go poof. Queue a frantic race to GET IT RIGHT.

In the meantime, we enjoy many, many more lives, examples of the past, the future, the far future, and any kind of nation or way of life. The imagination in this book is pretty awesome and I had a great time throughout, enjoying the cyborg bits just as much as the Buddha bits.

Indeed, this is a cool mix of the Lao and Buddhism, of heaven, great cosmic powers, reincarnation, learning, loving, accepting, and even juggling.

I have a real soft spot in my heart for this kind of thing. It's not only a book about what it is to be alive. It's having a purpose or learning that there is none. But on top of that, it's a great yarn with some epic scope that doesn't cheat us in the slightest.

And to top it all off, it's a cute, quirky, and desperate romance. With a cute Death girl who ALSO does a bit of sacrifice on the side. :)

Profile Image for Maggie Lynne .
57 reviews2 followers
January 3, 2018
15% of this book is interesting or amusing, but my eyes hurt from all the rolling they did during the other 85% of it.

The plot is like this...what if a Seth Rogan-like character kept getting reincarnated, but inexplicably always retained his personality and way of speaking. Imagine that character as a disciple of Buddha or as a sex trafficked character on a prison planet in the future. Imagine the cringe!

Have you done it yet?

There. Now you don't have to waste your time reading this.
Profile Image for Suanne Laqueur.
Author 26 books1,495 followers
August 8, 2020
(Arm sweeps "Best of 2020" shelf, knocking everything to the ground.)

(Places this book, and only this book on the shelf.)

I really do not care to discuss this further.
Profile Image for Jill McGill.
223 reviews180 followers
August 18, 2017
I'm really not big on reading fantasy books, but I have to say, I really enjoyed Reincarnation Blues. I found the story to be unique, whimsical, funny, touching, and sometimes disturbing. This book was absolutely better than what I was expecting. Definitely worth the read! I'm truly looking forward to reading more books by Michael Poore.

*I want to thank Penguin's First to Read Program for the ARC of this book.
Profile Image for John Towers.
3 reviews1 follower
April 7, 2018

[Content Note: Rape]

If I were to discount a few problematic things, this book would be perfectly mediocre. Normally I'd be content to just give it 2-3 stars and move on. But the few problematic things are REALLY problematic for me and not only could I not get over them, I felt compelled to write my second ever review.

The problems I have with the book are in its use and trivialization of rape. The first big moment is when the protagonist, at the time living as a 15 year old boy, is sent to a prison colony due to a false accusation of rape from an older woman. This was a completely unnecessary way to have the protagonist sent to prison despite being innocent - and for him to have someone to forgive later on. There were plenty of ways to make this happen without relying on and perpetuating the pervasive and dangerous myth that men are likely to be falsely accused of rape.

From there, the author continues to trivialize rape by throwing it into the story just to show how horrible things are - without any analysis of the causes or fallout. Rape in this story has the emotional weight of tripping over a rock and serves only as a shortcut to the protagonist's enlightenment.

It's sickening and nothing else the story did makes it okay enough for me to give this more than one star.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tim.
2,133 reviews200 followers
April 21, 2019
Moon nigger? -1000 stars!
407 reviews8 followers
December 29, 2017
Are you kidding me?

As I read this book these words kept coming to mind. Are you kidding me? He did not just say that.
Are you kidding me? There is no way he is going to do that. With each new life there was a new surprise for the reader and a new frustration for Milo.
But the biggest 'Are you kidding me', came at the end of the book. I was so irritated; that I kept looking for alternative endings on the acknowledgements pages following the story. I obviously became very invested in the characters and this story.

The story left me thinking. What would the world be like if reincarnation was the popular religious belief? Would the world be different if everyone was trying to achieve perfection?

Excellent job Mr. Michael Poore.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
September 3, 2017
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.

Copy courtesy NetGalley
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,041 followers
January 19, 2019
Poor Milo has reincarnated nearly the requisite 10,000 times allowed for reaching Perfection, and he hasn’t succeeded. Add to that, with only a couple of lives left, he is also trying desperately to reunite with the love of his life, Suzie, aka Death.

This is a very complicated (see spoiler material in my last paragraph) spiritual quest book that will appeal to Buddhists, yogis, people who meditate, people to try unsuccessfully to meditate, and anybody who is working their butt off to become enlightened, knowing it’s most likely a lost cause.

Author Michael Poore has a free, fertile, and funny imagination and sounds like Kurt Vonnegut if he had been born into the Millennial generation and educated in Eastern spiritual traditions . . . as well as slaughterhouse protocol, juggling, and a gazillion obscure specialties.

I mostly enjoyed this book, but I had trouble during the last four chapters. This is not a book for the novice seeker, but if you’re willing to work to understand, it’s fun. It is essentially a dramatic rendition of the Zen proverb: "Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."
Profile Image for Bejaka Phoenix.
168 reviews43 followers
April 21, 2019
I wish I had read more reviews prior to me starting this book. The author decided to employ a word that has brought so much turmoil and anguish both historical and currently to a marginalize group of people. Undoubtedly, the author's defense for using this word under the guise of "freedom of speech", however, the context it was used was not in an "historical" context but was in a passage where the main character is in the future. What is even more problematic is the amount of hands that this book went through and still this word was included.
Profile Image for Tonkica.
626 reviews117 followers
May 31, 2019

Što reći za ovu, u startu odličnu ideju? Da su ideja i naslovnica u biti jedino što sam dobroga pronašla u ovoj knjizi!
Jako puno ideja u kratkim sjećanjima na živote (priče) gdje se pogubiš i nisi siguran da li si u „sada“ ili se (glavni lik) Milo prisjeća prošlih života ili života u dalekoj budućnosti (koje je već proživio).
Gdje su fraze, kao npr.: hoću ti jebati ženu, prstom u guzici, preumorna sam za ova sranja, usrao u gaće, ne češati kitu svakih pet minuta, vođenje ljubavi moćno je sranje; skroz normalne kroz cijelu knjigu.
Gdje je skroz ok biti krivo optužen za silovanje, pa poslan na služenje kazne (jer nisi imao novaca za bolje odvjetnike) gdje si onda bio silovan od svog vlasnika i njegovih prijatelja, pa gdje na kraju ipak djevojka prizna da silovanja nije ni bilo, pa budeš pomilovan i vraćen kući. Stari moj, što je to!?
Gdje je okosnica priče ljubav između smrtnika i Smrti toliko mlaka i nebitna. Gdje sam svaki put uzevši knjigu uspjela zaspati od silne dosade..
No, možda je ipak do mene! Nisam od kratkih priča, pa sam u startu sa stilom pisanja bila zakinuta.. Bez obzira na to, ispričano me se nije dojmilo jer je bilo razbacano, natrpano, pretjerano, dosadno, nebitno, predugo, lako zaboravljivo i od poante koju sam toliko čekala nisam dobila ništa. :-/

Samo info: book klub ekipa i prosječna ocjena ovog djela – 1.53

„... to je više cijenila, stvari koje nosi žiovot. Kao, recimo, otvoren prozor dok spavaš, travu i tortilje. Osjećaj sreće kad ti netko dolazi u posjet i osjećaj sreće kad odlazi. Način na koji su neke stvari divne dok ih držiš u ruci: knjiga, sjekira, beba, pivo, hrpa M&M`sa.“

„Kad ljudi pokušaju uništiti umjetnost ili misao, objasnio je Milo, svi se oblici umjetnosti i mišljenja čine vrijednima. Na jako si skliskom terenu kad počneš određivati što ljudi smiju, a što ne smiju vidjeti. To je pravo zlo, materijalno i moćno. Pomogao sam sačuvati priliku čovječanstva da vidi i izabere.“

„Budini ljudi nisu imali to nezadovoljstvo. Činilo se da djeluju umjesto da se uzrujavaju. Djelovali su na ono što je u tom trenutku bilo pred njima, bio to razgovor ili šivanje rane ili ispijanje čaše vode.“

„Jedna je misao bila namijenjena svim ljudima na svim planetima – da možda ne možeš spriječiti ljude da budu grabežljivci, ali ih možeš navesti da prestanu biti plijen.“
Profile Image for Kathleen.
180 reviews27 followers
August 17, 2017
This was a unique idea and it was nice to read something very different from what I'm accustomed to. For some reason when I was around 50% finished, I started to lose interest and was not as engaged by the ending as I was at the beginning.

This is the love story of Milo and Death, although she prefers to be called Suzie. In the early chapters, I was reminded of the TV show Dead Like Me from 2004. I loved that show and was sorry it only lasted two seasons. The comparison to the book is the dark humor and the juxtaposition of Suzie reaping souls for a living, but otherwise experiencing very human emotions and characteristics. The idea is great and opens up lots of room for imagination, but Reincarnation Blues goes into a few places that went on a little too long for me. Milo is just a regular soul who seems like kind of a slacker and has been reincarnated nearly 10,000 times. Some chapters take place in the afterlife, some follow Milo's experiences after he is reborn. Sometimes he's reborn several centuries after the present day, other lives are in what we know as the past. Reincarnation does not follow any chronology. I think this is at the root of why I lost interest toward the end. I enjoy historical fiction, but there are long chapters that take place in dystopian future societies and I have never really been a fan of dystopian fiction. There are a couple of long chapters that take place in this setting and that's when I struggled to get through the book. I'm sure there are other people who were as disengaged in the historical fiction chapters as I was in the dystopian. If you enjoy both and aren't put off by variance in chapter length, this may be a perfect book for you! I enjoyed it for the most part, but got stuck in some long chapters that seemed like they would never end. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy for review.
Profile Image for Ricky Ginsburg.
Author 20 books92 followers
July 28, 2021
It's difficult to read this book and not feel bad for the main character. Even after thousands of lives, he remains unsatisfied. After a while, I began to feel unsatisfied as well. I wanted Death and the character to both die, once and for all. The writing is superb and the concept is wonderful, but it goes on for too long.
Profile Image for Elaine.
1,554 reviews1 follower
January 11, 2019
It really makes me sad when I read a book with an amazing premise but the execution falls flat.

This is how I felt after reading Reincarnation Blues.

Milo has been reincarnated almost 10,000 times. Each time, he is supposed to learn something existential that will allow him to be one with the universe but he fails each and every time.

When he learns he has only five more chances to make his goal before he is snuffed out forever, he has to make a choice to get it right one last time or forfeit it all for the love of his life, Death herself, aka Suzie.

What a great concept! The existential questions that arise from such a conundrum holds so many fascinating possibilities.

Can we ever live a fulfilling life? What does that mean exactly?

Does all lives lived mean suffering, loss and tragedy?

Can we ever get living right...right?

Unfortunately, these possibilities are never touched upon because of the following reasons:

1. Milo is a slacker, a lackluster hero who you really do not root for but end up wondering what his existence means.

2. I feel we could have done without the random romance and relationship between Milo and Suzie.

Hey, I'm not against romance, no sirree, Bob, but I wished they had some chemistry, some spark, some...kavorka to help me understand why they clicked. I wasn’t feeling their “feelings” so I didn't get why they liked/loved each other.

To make matters worse, I did not like them, not separate and not as an unit.

3. What's up with all the dystopian lives?

I get the feeling Mr. Poore really wanted to write a dystopian novel and incorporated those threads into this book instead so he got the best of both worlds.

We witness Milo in various reincarnations and nearly more than half of them feature him in a stereotypical sci-fi wasteland where the poor have nothing and the rich have it all. Sort of like modern society so that hasn't changed.

I don't understand the point of all these sci-fi reincarnations because they all sound the same. Milo is dumped in a wasteland and has to hustle for the wealthy and the rich.

He is abused, beaten, shamed and treated cruelly. He learns to stand up to the oppressors and teaches his family and friends to do the same. Then, he dies.

This goes on indeterminably. And all the lives began to blur together.

The fact that Milo comes off as kind of a dummy doesn't help his cause, either. I neither liked him nor rooted for him.

His personality and behavior was one dimensional, there was no exposition or anything that explained a little about who he was.

Considering how many lives he's led, I was disappointed he came off as such a moron at times.

Did he not learn anything in his previous 9,995 lives?

If the author had given Milo a life he remembered the most, the best, something he recalled in times of fear and despair, it may have given Milo some context and I may have understood him a little better, got to know him or like him, even just a little.

All we got were random ramblings about Milo bitching about the last five lives he's got, how much he missed Suzie, how often they shacked up and got it on, her refusal to be Death any longer and her banishment to live life as ethereal mist.

And that's another point I have to make.

Who is Suzie?

She is Death. What an incredible life she must lead. Imagine all the stories she has to tell!

What did she do before? Was she ever not Death?

We get nothing on her. No exposition, no teases of her past, no backstory.

I didn't like nor dislike Suzie. She was just there, Milo's motivation to make his last life count, to be with her, but we never know who Suzie is and I could not understand why Milo liked her in the first place. Or why she likes him, not to mention.

I really wanted to give this three stars, at least, but I really can't.
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,128 followers
September 4, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
490 reviews6 followers
October 31, 2018
This book. Oh geez, this book.

It started off fine - a little bit Carl Hiaasen, a little bit Christopher Moore; a decent enough core concept. The prose wasn't bad at all.

And then it took a left turn into the terrible and toxic, suddenly and out of the blue, and it never came back.

There's the entire chapter dedicated to how false rape accusations ruin lives, and how poor persecuted men become heroes by suffering the consequences. There's the Entitled White Boy Enlightenment obsession with meditating as the cure for everything and path to perfection. There's the (repeated) parts where our narrator goes to learn from brown people and, within a month, just due to his inherent betterness, has mastered their arts better than they ever have - including the entire section where it turns out that the Buddha is just a daffy, senile old bat and all of his followers are idiots.

Then there's the part where our hero becomes the Great White Savior of an entire planet of brown people, and the appropriation of the n-word.

And to cap it off? Like I said, the prose isn't bad. Parts of this book that weren't nauseatingly toxic made me laugh out loud; other parts honestly made me cry from emotion and not just fury. And that's frustrating as hell, because a gift with words like that should be spent doing something more than just masturbating onto the page.

1.5 stars for the decent prose, rounded down because now is NOT the time to be whining about false rape accusations and appropriating POC culture.
Profile Image for Megan.
418 reviews54 followers
June 30, 2017
[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.
Profile Image for Ryder Author Resources.
35 reviews35 followers
June 24, 2017
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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