Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Incarnate (New Soul #1) Book ReView, a nosoul, a newsoul, an innocent soul

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Science Fiction; Dystopia (384 pgs)
Katherine Tegen Books

330th Year of Songs, Week 3

What is a soul, but a consciousness born and born again?
   With the rise of new technology, we know souls can be measured as a series of vibrations, which Soul Tellers map out on machines.  Each sequence is unique.  Each sequence is the same as it was in its previous incarnation, no matter how different the body may be.  I have been reborn a hundred times, and I remember every generation.
   Souls are sentience, an essence born into a new body when the old one dies.
   There have always been a million souls, but now were a million minus one.  Five years ago, the temple flashed dark on the night Ciana died.  This evening, when Li gave birth to our daughter, we expected Ciana's reincarnation.  Instead, truths on which we'd built society were irrevocably made uncertain.
   Soul Tellers took the newborn's hand and pressed it on the soul-scanner, and the vibration sequence searched for a match in the database.
   There was no match, which means this soul has never been born before.  So where did it come from? What happened to Ciana's soul? Has it been replaced? Might others be replaced?
   Is this new soul even real?

This is a piece from Menehem's personal diary, one of the many archived from generation to generation. Menehem is also father to Ana, a newsoul, or nosoul, born after five thousand of years of the same souls being reincarnated.  Ana comes into being while Ciana dies never having been reincarnated again.  One old soul lost, a new one gained.  Conveniently enough Ana comes from the word Ciana, meaning "alone," or "empty," symbolizing that Ana has taken from Ciana through her birth.  Ana's struggle to find peace with her existence becomes a matter of questioning the basic tradition, and principles of her society.  Why is it that she came into existence when reincarnation has been the way since the beginning?  What purpose did she have, if any?  Was she a new soul, or nosoul? Could there be others?

Reincarnation meant that every soul had lived many generation, many lives, many lifetimes.  With it all came a lot of knowledge and wisdom.  All of which Ana felt she was 'lifetimes behind.'  This brings Ana into an existential awareness.  She has a very limited amount of time, and reincarnation for her is not guaranteed, no one knows how newsouls or nosouls work in whole process. She has to think about who she really is, what she truly feels not what others assume she feels as a nosoul or whether she can love as a result, and most of all to define her own path in life as opposed to it already being defined by a reincarnated soul.

There are some special parts in the book.  One is the inclusion and powerful impact that music has on Ana carrying her the full distance through the book.  The next is this scene with the two main characters, Ana and Dossam eating honey while they converse and reminsce over details of their lives.  The touches of humour here and there, although scarce, is just enough to add a little depth.  And of course, to see the contrast between what it would be like to have one lifetime versus multiple lifetimes.  What would be expected of you if you were reincarnated?  How would you choose to live if you knew you had one lifetime versus multiple wherein you came back and faced your life in continuation knowing that everyone knew who you were even though you had reincarnated into a new body?

I guess I was dissapointed by one aspect of the book, but even this was approached with modesty and grace.  It was Ana's severe sappiness towards her own self.  She felt like a disease, a project, an experiment, a nosoul... It just carried on and on, I felt.  It was paced alright, but it was still too much for me.  At some point I also thought that it was never going to give me the answers to the most pertinent questions.  Why was Ana born as a newsoul? What was her purpose as a newsoul?  How could have happened?  I was pleasantly surprised to see that I wasn't being led on, that it actually put some answers in front of me.  I'm not sure about the ending.  It was good.  Not great.  Good.  By the way that it ended, I don't really know how the next book in the series might develop.  I guess I'll wait to find out.

There is one more addition to the book that I wanted to bring up.  It is the battle between science versus faither/religion/spirituality.  That pertains to the end in a big way, and I don't want to spoil it for anyone.  If you have an interest in this kind of topic, definitely read this book.  I recommend this book to just about anyone, not just YA lovers.  It more than exceeded my expectations.  It id one of the best YA novels I've loved this year, but maybe that's about to change since I will also be reading Wither, Delerium, and Divergent this week.

This is one of my favorite parts, and I have decided to include this here as an excerpt.  This part was a significant turning point in the book, and it also shows you the kind of writing you are to expect if you are considering reading this book.

"    I was lying on the bed, though I didn't remember moving.  Had he carried me?  He'd definitely pulled the blankets over me.  My burns hurt too much to grasp the thick wool.
    There was a terrifying thought.  What happened when I had to use the washroom?  I steeled myself and considered my hands; the left one wasn't quite as bad.  I could suffer a little pain to salvage any remaining dignity.
   Reassured, I glanced at Sam again, who'd gone back to writing in his book.  "What are you doing?"
   His pen hesitated over the paper, like I'd make him lose his place.
   I shouldn't have asked.  I knew better, but my hands ----
   "Writing notes."  He blew on the ink, closed the book, and set everything aside.  "Would you like to read more?"
   "Only if you want."  When he looked away, I tried to sit up.  But every time I used my elbows to push myself, they jabbed onto the blanket.  I kept pinning myself to the bed.  Refusing to let a stupid blanket win, I kicked to move it downward.  With it out of the way, I pushed again with my elbows.  I'd miscalculated and the same problem - the blanket - threw me back down.
    I slapped the bed to keep my balance ----
   An inferno surged through my arm and I screamed, clutching my hand against my chest.
   Sam was at my side in an instant, arms encircling me.
   Trapped.  I yelled and fought to escape, but he wouldn't let go.  Unable to use my hands to push, I tried to bite him.  Mouthful of wool.  An ugly sob escaped.
    "I'm so sorry," he whispered, shaking like he could be anywhere near as upset about this as me.  "I'm sorry."
    This wasn't trapping me.  It was...hugging?  I'd seen Li embrace her friends during a rare visit.  No one hugged me, of course.  Apparently no one had told Sam.
    When he finished hugging me, he checked my palm for new damage.  I'd been lucky.  "Take these."  He retrieved a handful of pills from a small table and offered water to wash them down.  "Tell me if you need anything else."
   I swallowed the pills.  "Okay."
   He met my eyes, seemed to search me.  "You have to tell me.  Don't make me guess."
   I lowered my gaze first.  "Okay."
   He didn't believe me.  It was the same expression Li used when she didn't think I'd actually cleaned the cavies' cages, or turned the compost pile.  But he hadn't asked me to do chores, just wanted me to tell him if I needed anything.
   Okay.  If I needed anything, I would tell him.
   "Do you want to read more?" he asked, after a few moments of sitting unnervingly close.
  I nodded.
  He signed and freed me from the blankets.  "This is already going to be a difficult recovery for  you, but it doesn't have to be terrible.  Tell me things you want, too."

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