3 New Books About Reinventions and Reincarnations
There’s an old saying that there are only seven types of stories out there. Well, that may in some ways be true, but we’re very lucky that there are so many great ways of telling them anew, and that we seem to be hard-wired to never get tired of them. This week’s book club is all about reinventions of old stories and reincarnations of self, as we try over and over again to get things right.
Baxter reinvents another one of H.G. Wells’ famous novels (his first, 1995’s The Time Ships, was an award-winning sequel to The Time Machine) with an authorized sequel to War of the Worlds, set 14 years after the Martians attacked. Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book, has been replaced by his sister-in-law Julie Elphinstone, a reporter to whom Jenkins sends messages (in the midst of his therapy sessions from none other than Sigmund Freud) to warn about the newest alien conquest. (Julie’s ex, Frank, gave his own account in the original novel.) Elphinstone’s return to London from New York coincides with the return of the Martians, who are looking to take over and populate the planet.
This novel is a reworking of the Monica Lewinsky story to become an anti-slut-shaming tale. Aviva Grossman has an affair with a congressman in Florida while working as his intern. Blogging about it turns out to be a major mistake, because while the congressman is still employed and maintains his approval ratings, Aviva is not only out of a job, but loses her entire identity. With only life as a punchline left to look forward to, Aviva tries to reinvent herself. She changes her name, moves to Maine, and years later has a pretty decent life with her daughter, Ruby (who has no idea about her mother’s past). But now Aviva wants to run for public office, which means her past has come up again; it’s a miracle she’s even managed to hide this long. What to do?
While the other two books reinvent familiar stories, this one’s all about a being reinventing itself. Currently Milo, he’s been 9,995 different things, including men, women, animals, and bugs. This is a world in which everyone reincarnates, and he’s done so more than anyone, coming back so many times in a bid for his soul to find perfection. If he does answer all the big questions about life and achieve true wisdom, he gets to go through the Sun Door to be a part of the Oversoul. If he doesn’t… well, there’s always another chance. Until there isn’t.