The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz (book review).

Having recently watched the ‘Infinite’ film on TV, I decided to explore its source material, ‘The Reincarnationist Papers’ by D. Eric Maikranz. I wasn’t too surprised that the two diverged significantly, as the 2021 film is marketed as a sci-fi action-thriller. The only commonality is the concept of people being reincarnated in new bodies, which isn’t explicitly shown in the book but rather discussed.

Maikranz introduces the discovery of diaries in Rome, recounted by Evan Michaels, and has them translated from Bulgarian. However, the story then shifts to Michaels’ first-person account of his life as a financially struggling arsonist, paid for his criminal activities and careful to maintain an alibi to avoid getting caught. We follow one job where he is shot in the foot while escaping but is helped by a former doctor, Poppy, and her chauffeur, Antonio. Michaels then stays with them as he recovers.

Only a quarter of the way through the book do we learn that both Poppy and Antonio are palingenesists – people who are reborn in new bodies and regain their past memories and skills at the age of 18. Michaels, however, died at age six in his previous life, resulting in fragmented memories of his past. There is also a later contradiction, disregarding the rule about remembering past lives at age 18.

Poppy reveals that there are 28 palingenesists who have formed a society called the Cognomina, headquartered in Zurich, and have accumulated wealth throughout their many lives. They are also searching for and verifying the existence of other palingenesists, with Michaels being the first in a long time. However, he must undergo an interrogation process called Ascension to confirm his status; failure would result in execution. The book also addresses the issue of remembering past lives before age 18, creating a contradiction in the narrative. Additionally, there is an inconsistency in the terminology used for the reborn characters – palingenesists and resurrectionists – as if the author changed his mind but didn’t update the earlier references.

Despite being based on Michaels’ notebooks and accounting for his feelings at the time, the story feels somewhat placid. Characters’ emotions seem understated, even when faced with intense situations. It’s also worth noting that there may be other palingenesists outside the Cognomina, and the group’s members are all sterile. However, this aspect of the story isn’t well-explored and raises questions about the connection between sterility and reincarnation.

The book also implies that the Cognomina members are elitists, but this idea isn’t fully developed. They amass considerable wealth and remain hidden, with a failsafe in place that allows them to return if killed. The focus of the story is on Michaels joining the group rather than exploring the mindset of the Cognomina members. The main plot revolves around a character named Samos, who tasks Michaels with stealing a painting, leading to complications at the story’s climax.

The book is well-written, with detailed descriptions and a steady pace, but it lacks emotional depth. Footnotes occasionally appear to verify information, adding to the sense that the story is based on discovered notebooks. Though Michaels is portrayed as a skilled writer, his account lacks personal opinions and reactions to his situation.

Readers shouldn’t expect the book to resemble the film, as it seems the filmmakers only wanted the concept of resurrection in different bodies. They didn’t use any character names from the book, despite having rights to them. The book is readable but laid-back, and it doesn’t fully explore the potential of its ideas. While the resurrectionists don’t have a clear agenda beyond taking advantage of each generation they’re reborn in, the concept of extended lives and accumulating wealth over time is reminiscent of the Howard families from Robert Heinlein’s works. The resurrectionists’ story would benefit from a more in-depth exploration of the characters’ past histories and the impact of their resurrections on their lives.

Maikranz’s writing is engaging, but the story doesn’t make full use of its unique premise. The resurrectionists don’t seem to have a significant agenda, other than taking advantage of each generation they are reborn into. As the members are all of different ages, their primary goal is to keep going. It would be interesting for Maikranz to write more about these characters and explore their experiences upon returning to life. While he provides some insight into the past histories of certain characters, the story would be more compelling if it delved deeper into the implications of their resurrections, rather than focusing on a standard plot.

The lack of emotion and personal opinions in Michaels’ account may stem from the fact that it is based on his notebooks, but it is essential for a work of fiction to explore characters’ emotions in various situations. Readers should not expect the book to resemble the film, as the two have significant differences. However, the book is still readable and thought-provoking, even if it doesn’t maximize the potential of its ideas.

In conclusion, ‘The Reincarnationist Papers’ is a well-written, albeit laid-back, exploration of the concept of resurrection and the impact it has on the lives of its characters. While the narrative could benefit from a more in-depth examination of the implications of the resurrectionists’ abilities and experiences, the book remains an engaging read. Readers interested in the subject matter should not hesitate to pick it up, but they should be prepared for a different experience than what the film adaptation offers.

GF Willmetts

April 2023

(pub: Black Stone. 415 page enlarged paperback. Price:  (UK). ISBN: 978-1-09415495-4)

check out website: www.BlackStonePublishing.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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