Reincarnation, debt, crime and more: books read

THE REINCARNATIONIST PAPERS by D. Eric Maikranz has a young arsonist tormented by apparently schizophrenic knowledge and memories — how is it possible he speaks fluent Bulgarian? — learn it’s because he’s carrying the memories of his two previous lives. Then he gets the opportunity to join a cabal consisting of his fellow reincarnates (actually we’ve all lived before, it’s just that most of us don’t remember) — but I lost interest soon after. Part of this was that it’s yet another entry in the “As you’re completely new to this setting, we have an excuse to explain it in detail” school  of infodumping and generally that I found it slow and talky. The gimmick of treating this as the print equivalent of Found Footage, with footnotes explaining the supposed journal, didn’t add anything

In DEBT: The First 5,000 Years, anthropologist David Graeber takes issue with the classic theory on the Origins of Money, that society starts with barter, the moves to money as a more flexible system (he argues that we’ve never found a society in any stage of development that’s all barter). Instead, he argues, the original market was built around debt: if the cobbler needs flour but the miller doesn’t need shoes, the miller gives the cobbler flour on credit, knowing he’ll get the same treatment when he needs his shoes repaired. Barter, by contrast, was reserved for outsiders and travelers who couldn’t be relied on. Graeber argues from this that mutual support is really the basis of the market rather than Adam Smith’s assumption everything hinges on self-interest. Graeber also concludes that our current reliance on credit isn’t historically unique, but the ruthless interest rates and lack of a debt jubilee are. A very interesting book (this synopsis barely scratches the surface) though Graeber’s conviction he’s found the explanation for everything (patriarchy, honor codes and even the Holy Grail) makes me skeptcial.

THE FIRE NEVER GOES OUT: A Memoir in Pictures by Noelle Stevenson tells the story of her life as a fan artist moving into professional work, realizing she’s gay and coping with the pressures of success and mental illness. The results remind me of Alison Bechdel’s Secret of Superhuman Strength but Stevenson, much as I like her work, isn’t at Bechdel’s level and she simply doesn’t have as much life to memoir about. It’s good, but feels slighter than it should given the seriousness of the subjects.

BAD GIRLS by Alex de Campi and Victor Santos is a heist film set in Havana right before Castro took the city. A general in the old regime is collecting protection money from the casinos, hoping to escape before the revolutionaries swarm in. Three women, however, decide they can use the money better than he can. This is a fast-paced page turner but flawed: a B-plot with an oblivious party girl doesn’t work and the fate of one woman left me wondering what had happened.

THE DEATH-DEFYING DOCTOR MIRAGE by Jen Van Meter and various artists didn’t do it for me. The early scenes involving the Vietnamese-American medium/occultist are good but it soon settles into a stock pot involving a demonic invasion and I lost interest. I put this one down half-finished.

#SFWApro. All rights to Victor Santos cover remain with current holder.


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