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Transmigration of Soul Mass Market Paperback – 31 Dec 1996

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In the twenty-first century, American explorers discover alien teleportation and time-travel equipment on the moon, which leads them into a multi-dimensional struggle with a maleficent entity who plans to obliterate the universe.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating and complicated mosaic of life in a future probabilistic universe. 25 Mar. 2010
By Leigh Anne Dear - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read this book twice now but the 2nd time allowed me a deeper understanding of my first impression. During the first read I was somewhat annoyed at the display of sexual oriented obsessive/compulsive thoughts stemming from his main characters regardless of their primary occupation at any one point in the story line. But, I honestly admit this annoyance may stem from this readers stage of life (older) where sexual thoughts have been supplanted by other occupations much more interesting to me at this time of life.

That being said: My first read-through was too fast, I was too impatient and at the end I'd sense enough to realize that I'd comprehended enough of Barton's story-telling genius to know I missed out on more of its mysteries than I'd perceived. Rereading the book filled in details that allowed me to form a more satisfying appreciation of his multiverse concept story and the driving spiritual/psychological compulsions which motivate his character's along a weirdly fantastic journey through probable realities in their ultimate search for God or at least the Committee that forms the being called God (smiley face here as this is my personal observation). Obviously the multiverse, probabilistic universe concept predates Barton but he puts the concept to good use. Barton's storytelling is fast paced with few built-in redundancies allowing the reader to luxuriate or 'space-out', the scenery and emotions are descriptively well imagined and thought provoking.

To briefly recap the story: After the Americans discovered the moon's Stargate system they reap the benefit of other alien technologies via explorations but they are careful to guard these secrets from the remaining world by building a wall around their territory and shutting themselves away from the rest of humanity. Literally. Within their self-imposed isolation the Americans, always known as a vastly superior consumer society (obviously not a compliment), have obtained knowledge which allows them to consume forever: They achieve immortality and the ability to manipulate matter. But multiverse exploration eventually confronts them with a terrifying discovery that they try to outrun (by leaving the gate systems and hiding back on earth in the American blockade). Fortunately for the story the American soldier (our heroine 100 years later) who was ordered to blow up the moon's Stargate disobeyed orders for reasons not to be explained here. So, the Stargate remains intact on the moon awaiting its next discoverer.

Some 100 years or so later (while the Americans have been living it up and growing bored) a foreign nation sends its own team to the moon with no real clue as to what lays waiting. They are driven by the diminishment of earth's available resources and predictions of man's ultimate demise. Although the story begins on earth it leaves shortly thereafter never to return. Such is the concept of reaching a cusp and triggering a probabilistic time line.

As a descriptive side note about Barton's writing style: It's never explained how the American's achieved immortality but fairly early on while ½ of the main characters (American soldiers) are chasing the other ½ (the foreign country astronauts who inadvertently discover the Moon's gate system) through very alien worlds within the multiverse the source of the Americans immortality is hinted at. During the chase the American team leader Astrid Kincaid (the soldier originally ordered to blow up the Moon's gate) makes reference to her symbiote hoping that it can withstand (and protect her) against the hard radiation weapon assaulting her team by intelligent alien green ants astride their praying mantis type beasties. The symbiote reference answered my lingering curiosity as to the means of immortality (another `Stargate' series concept). This approach is typical of how Barton slowly reveals answers to the many secrets constantly encountered by his characters (and his readers) in their adventures. Answers to secrets begging to be understood.

Barton enriches his story throughout with clever, subtle references to other famous SF concepts originated from Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs through EE Doc Smith, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and so forth. It's these concepts that make the story line fun. His brilliant and exciting (multi)universe is limited only by the depth of imagination in his readers and interestingly enough by the reluctance of his characters to believe what they see in front of them. That is until they take a second look (reading) then all becomes clear(er). They can then react with better comprehension as does the reader.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"White Light" like, strong start/middle, confused ending 2 Sept. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was the first book by Barton I ever read. Albeit some of the ideas (stargates etc...) are quite worn out by now, they are intricately rendered. Interesting depiction of a background US isolated from the rest of the decaying world, employing alien technology to create a nation of immortal but infantile shapechangers. Also interesting theme of the Universe as something of a software toolkit. I found the start and middle of this "stargate"-like story actually very good, but found the end a huge letdown. It then starts to borrow to much there from Heinlein and other "classicals" to remain original, and gets entangled to much into absurd many-world quantum theoretical stuff (which the author seems to like - a little to much, for my taste). At least the "SF author becomes god" part is somewhat funny... Overall, this story is very very similar in theme, structure, setup, ideas and execution to "White Light" from the same author, albeit not so extremely entangled in sex as that story. I'd judge "Transmigration" the better story, overall, with more "involvement" in the story than e.g "Alpha Centauri". Albeit its not as good as "Acts of Conscience" or the excellent "When We Were Real" by far, I'd still judge it as recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Internalized literary scie-fi - a must read 25 Jun. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
William Barton, author of what is beginning to be a significant corpus of literary science fiction, does it, again, here. I don't mean literary in the classic sence, though. Barton excells at referencing the sci-fi literature. He alludes to the great works of the genre for purpose. Too bad, I think, that many readers of the genre are not noticing it. This is a writer with great potential. In the present work, among his best, Americans have uncovered an alien technology hidden on the moon and have used it to makethemselves rather god-like. But these are gods afraid of the return of the REAL gods. At heart a quest work like Simmons "Endymion" or, even, "Gilgamesh," Barton's work glows with a knowledge of the genre and the will to pull the past into the present. One of the best (and least appreciated) writers around.
Good hard sci-fi that borrows liberally from the best 26 Mar. 2012
By James Tepper - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found this on my bookshelf last week, a viginal paperback from 1996 that I had never read. Don't know why, but that's pretty unusual for me. Anyway, the back cover blurb, which undoubtedly convinced me to buy it in the first place, was still interesting so I picked it up and started reading. The first part of the novel is a more or less standard, near-future SF adventure in which the US has become the sole possessor of remarkable technologies, including immortality, that was discovered (and somehow kept secret from the rest of the world) during a series of lunar expeditions in the middle of the 21st century. Not long after this, something that the US discovered on the Moon scared them so badly that they abandoned their space program, closed their borders allowing virtually no one in or out of the country, and retreated into total isolationism.

The real story begins some 70 years later as two teams of Arabs and Chinese finally launch their own missions to they Moon simultaneously to find what the Americans found and bring back home the technology for their own country's use. As they approach the Moon, they receive a warning from the US to stay away or else, and the US launches a spacecraft that reaches the moon in 3 hours instead of weeks. The Americans arrive and destroy the Arab and Chinese landers with advanced tech weaponry, but not before some of each landing party manage escape the landers and break into the old American base, and discover the secret of the alien tech that the Americans had found decades before. The secret turns out to be a system of stargates (Stargate, anyone?) that instantly transport people and things to... well just about anywhere. The Americans arrive, guns ablazing, but not before one Chinese and several Arabs escape through the stargaze. The remainder of the novel is quest to find their way back home.

There was a lot to like here, but also a few things that bugged me. Barton's writing style uses a lot of first person perspective that switches often. He also expresses first person thoughts without quote or italics, so I often had to flip back and forth to determine whose thoughts I was reading and or who was talking.

There were a large number of literary and current cultural allusions to SF books and movies, regular literature ("Heart of Darkness) and other things. This was cute at first, but started to become a little annoying when there were entire characters, scenes and worlds appropriated straight of of the works of folks like Edgar Rice Burroughs, EE Doc Smith, Philip José Farmer, and Robert Heinlein. In fact, pretty much the entire multiverse reality vs fantasy (or SF) thing was straight out of Heinlein's "The Number of the Beast" and his other sequels to "Time Enough for Love". And the last longish section of the book straight out of Farmer's "Riverworld" series. Homage is one thing. This was a little bit over the top, I think.

I actually found the scenario about the isolation of the US among the hardest to believe in the book (and there are a lot of really fantastic things going on). By the mid 21st century dozens of countries would have possessed sufficient tech to listen in, fly over and photograph, stealthily infiltrate - any one of dozens of ways to discover what the US had found on the Moon and spread it among the rest of the world. From another point of view (and this was both before and after I knew what exactly happened on the moon) how could the US have though that it had the right to claim the Moon and what was found there as its own property and lock the rest of the world out? And if we come close to annihilating ourselves in a nuclear holocaust over tiny patches of desert scrubland in the Middle East, how could the rest of the world sit back and let the US fold up shop and withdraw into its own borders? But perhaps I quibble too much.

Finally, why did what happened to Dale Millikan happen only to him and not to everyone else who went through the gates? His character represents a fascinating and interesting twist, but sorry, although I do understand what happened to him, I don't understand at all why, and why only him.

My complaints in the last three paragraphs lowered my rating from 4 stars to 3.5, rounded down to 3, so if these things sorts of things don't bother you, I'm pretty confident that you will like this one. I intend to try at least one more by Barton, as well as giving this a re-read at some point.

JM Tepper
Gates to Confusion 17 April 2008
By David Brockert - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Saturday, February 25, 2006
"The Transmigration of Souls" by William Barton, ©1996
This is one story that goes all over the place! It begins with an Earth that is developed into something we really do not foresee: United Arab Republic with free Jewish people still living, China that rules over Asia, Sub-Saharian Africa is still in the doldrums and the United States has effectively withdrawn from the life of the world. The story develops into an adventure through many worlds by the transmission of the people by 'stargates'. The necessary technology is God given. The dangers are also God given: the infinite choices we make cause infinite universes to be created, causing the administrators to send in the Juggernaut to stop the chaos from enveloping the universe.
This reminds me of another story that deals with the same delimna. It takes off from the old H. G. Wells story, "The Time Machine". The problem of multiple universes is beyond our comprehension, but gives some fodder to story writers.
Another notion that was touched on within the story was whether or not Christians would opt for immotality or would wait for the second coming or Christ. How firm is your belief in the second coming? Sure it is a flight of fancy, but it brings up a question that most people would never think of or would consider, and it truly only applies to the actually religious folks.
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