Title: The Reincarnationist Papers
Author: D. Erik Maikranz
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publication date: May 4, 2021
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
One Sentence Summary: Evan hasn’t really fit in since he turned 18 and received memories from two previous lives, but that changes when he meets Poppy, a woman like him.
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the idea of previous lives and reincarnation. I went into this book knowing only that it had to do with past lives, and didn’t really read the description beyond that. I was a little lost when I first started reading, not sure if the book started with the Author’s Note or the first notebook, but the story unfolded really well, if a bit boringly. Actually, since this has been made into a movie coming out later this year, I thought it made a better movie than book.
Moves Like Molasses
Evan has been estranged from his parents for the past three years, ever since he turned eighteen and started remembering past lives. Since then he’s made his way to L.A. to become something of an arsonist for hire. On the heels of his most recent job, he’s chased and injured by a cop, but hides so isn’t discovered. Instead, a mysterious woman named Poppy finds him and patches him up.
Poppy has some suspicions about him, which are quickly confirmed. So she whisks him off to Zurich to meet others like him, and her. The goal is to be accepted by them. But these people have led extremely long, very complicated lives, and they’re not above trying to influence and use Evan because of who he and they are.
The Reincarnationist Papers wasn’t exactly what I thought. Actually, there was so little overall movement within the book that I wasn’t sure what was supposed to be happening. It’s about a guy who can remember past lives wanting to join a group of people just like him. That’s basically it. Some action is built in at the end, but, otherwise, it’s kind of a bland story with a cinematic quality.
This book is divided into three notebooks that, supposedly, the author, Maikranz, came across and translated. They document Evan’s life from just before he meets Poppy to the time he hands off the notebooks to someone he meets. Overall, most of it doesn’t span a huge amount of time, until the very end. Each notebook kind of felt like it’s own story, so the book felt like it was divided into thirds, with a major event happening during each.
I must say, the beginning completely lured me in. I found it gritty and raw and so detail oriented. It’s about Evan starting a fire. It was so well done that I almost felt like I could feel the flames. From there, I thought the rest of the book would be more of the same: intense and raw. Instead, it wasn’t really action packed until the reader gets to the third notebook. Most of the movement felt like it was done in comfort and was so easy. Otherwise it was a lot of sitting and talking and questioning. My attention did, unfortunately, wane as the story wore on, but the pace was even and the whole book was actually a fairly easy read.
What I did like were the historical stories told by some of the characters Evan meets. They take the reader back and forth in time, but the quality seemed to fade with each story. Still, I found them interesting and hope they’re historically accurate. There are footnotes here and there to fact check the story, but I have yet to fact check the foot notes. Anyways, I always love when history and immortality are woven together, so this book pleased me on that front.
As I mentioned, there’s a cinematic quality to The Reincarnationist Papers. As I was reading, I could totally see it as a movie, see how the cameras might pan and how the script might handle the back and forth in time. But it made for an odd reading experience. Reading it was actually a tad boring. There isn’t really anything exciting or interesting going on to hold a reader’s interest. I don’t know if I would see the movie, but I’m also curious to see if the book or movie is better considering the author wrote this with the goal of seeing it made into a movie.
People With Immortal Souls
As The Reincarnationist Papers deals with characters who are, essentially, immortal, it was both difficult and easy to get to know them. On one hand, who they were didn’t really change, but the body changed and it wasn’t always easy to keep them all straight. But it was an interesting exploration of what life might be like if your soul lived forever, how you might change, be changed, or not be affected. I liked that it gave a look into how ancient souls viewed life, from introspective to living a life of excess with few cares or concerns in the world to treating life as disposable. I do wonder if any of them ever became attached to a particular body or a particular life or if they continually found themselves in similar places no matter the time or place. Overall, I was a little disturbed by the overall lack of regard for life, but found the relationships between them fun and interesting.
Evan is the main character. He’s the one telling the story, the one who left the notebooks behind. He felt the most disposable of all the characters, the one everyone else jerked around because he’s new and his soul will live forever, and they know it. He himself felt reckless and adrift, perhaps because he’s realized he’ll just keep coming back over and over? I didn’t like that he never seemed to develop a true sense of himself and instead let everyone else in the Cognomina yank him around. But it does make me curious to know how he will evolve the more lives he lives.
World Wide, Back and Forth in Time
The Reincarnationist Papers is set all over the world and back and forth in time. Actually, my favorite parts were the little stories peppered in about different members of the Cognomina’s past lives. I thought most of those were exceptionally well done and helped give me a more solid sense of time and place. I just wish there had been more of them.
It was fun to travel around the world with the characters. Most of it was set in L.A., Zurich, and Tunisia and I did think I got an adequate sense of place. L.A. felt the most familiar and the most gritty. Zurich actually kind of felt rather refined. Tunisia was dusty and the least advanced. One thing that bothered me was that Evan spent a good chunk of time in Zurich, but, other than where he and the rest of the Cognomina were staying, there wasn’t much actual exploration of the city. Evan did go out a few times to sight see, but the reader wasn’t privy to any of it.
Overall, the settings felt suitable and gave just enough sense of place with neither too much nor too little detail, but I was a bit bothered by how it felt it had been written more for cinematography than as a book. Almost as though it had been conceived as a movie first and then novelized.
Maybe Better as a Movie?
The Reincarnationist Papers appealed to me because of the premise. I find past lives fascinating, so was really interested in this book. Unfortunately, it left me wanting, though I can absolutely see how it lends itself to being a movie. But that’s one thing that bothered me throughout the book. Instead of enjoying the story, thoughts of how it might look on the screen kept intruding. The entire middle part was also a huge lull. There wasn’t actually much happening. Only the beginning and end were exciting, and the premise was definitely the best part of this book.
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Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.