Barbara and Joe are two ethereal beings who have existed forever and whose lives consist of (1) swirling, as one does when one is nothing but spirit; and (2) playing “gigantic convoluted games that produced complex colors, patterns, and sounds.” Finding this existence boring, Barbara talks Joe into exploring other dimensions with her. They end up on Epsilon Five, a planet that houses the Galactic Federation Council (hello, Star Trek), where Barbara becomes enthralled with the council’s leader. The two follow the leader to Earth, where they encounter Lanny, another spirit being who makes Barbara an irresistible offer: the chance to inhabit a series of human bodies, one after another, across different time periods. Joe stays behind to kibitz with Lanny.
In the book’s preface, Smith discusses his study of “meditation, remote viewing, and out-of-body experiences,” citing a number of writers whose work changed him “from a spiritual skeptic to a spiritual believer, and finally to a spiritual knower.” He intends AN ADVENTUROUS SOUL: One soul’s exciting journey through the Human Learning School to be an allegorical addition to this canon, a fictional stew for his philosophical carrots and peas. It works in places. Barbara and Joe have good chemistry, ribbing each other (they don’t have ribs, but you get the idea) and conversing in a way that shows affection. Smith’s tone is light, despite the heaviness of his subject matter. His characters are likeable, if not entirely believable.
Believability is the hardest thing to achieve in science fiction (although the author submitted his book for review in the “Spirituality” genre, it shares many sci-fi qualities). It requires the writer to envision a world, people it, set down its natural laws, and most of all, solve problems in accordance with those laws. Too often, Smith’s solutions seem dashed-off or incomplete. In one passage, Barbara says, “Somehow I know that if I tried to transport into the building, it wouldn’t work. Must be some sort of energy shield.” We need more than this. Tolkien, by contrast, went so far as to write down the grammatical structure for the languages his elves and orcs spoke. Overkill? Not at all. Details like this makes fictional worlds feel as authentic, as real, as ours.
AN ADVENTUROUS SOUL is a limited but entertaining tale introducing a range of ideas without fully advocating for them.
~Anthony Aycock for IndieReader