Published by Bloomsbury on February 3, 2015
Genres: dystopian, science fiction
Pages: 368 pages
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A new literary, sci-fi thriller from acclaimed author Megan Miranda.
With the science of soul-fingerprinting a reality, Alina Chase has spent her entire life imprisoned for the crimes her past-self committed. In an attempt to clear her name, Alina unintentionally trades one prison for another when she escapes, aided by a group of teens whose intentions and motivations are a mystery to her. As she gets to know one of the boys, sparks fly, and Alina believes she may finally be able to trust someone. But when she uncovers clues left behind from her past life that only she can decipher, secrets begin to unravel. Alina must figure out whether she’s more than the soul she inherited, or if she’s fated to repeat the past.
This compelling story will leave readers wondering if this fictional world could become a reality.
While Soulprint brings up some interesting questions – how are we shaped by our pasts? how are we shaped by our environments? – I was ultimately not thrilled by its execution.
In the world of the novel, here are the things you need to believe for this book to make sense to you: that there are souls, one; that souls are reincarnated (and are immediately reincarnated upon dying, but only travel short distances because … reasons), two; and that there’s a study that claims a high level of correspondence between criminal activity in past lives and criminal activity in current lives. Once a psychopath, always a psychopath.
In the novel “shared souls” is kind of a stand-in (at least to my mind) for genes and their influence – the comparison to heredity is made more than once over the course of the novel. There is also a biological component to soul-printing (accessing some sort of spinal fluid identifies folks as sharing linked souls across generations). This is to say, the book’s main question seems to be – are our choices already predetermined for us? (Whether, as in Soulprint, through the passage of souls into new bodies, or by getting particular genes from our parents.) Can we be at fault for the choices we make if those choices are seriously constrained?
Alina Chase’s present has been determined by the fact that she possesses the same soul as June Calahan, a notorious maybe-criminal. Alina has been isolated on an island since she was born – supposedly, for her own safety, to prevent attempts on her life. She has no close friends or family around her – just a constantly rotating unit of guards. Soulprint’s action takes off when Alina receives secret messages from the outside that alert her to the possibility of escape. When Alina escapes, though, she’s not sure if she’s placed herself in even more serious danger. The novel follows Alina as she attempts to sort through her past life as June (and follow clues June has left for her) and as she tries to figure out whether she can trust and have relationships with other people. (She has been totally isolated, so this last point is no small feat.)
Soulprint deals with the nature-nurture argument through reincarnation and poses interesting questions in so doing, but I didn’t ultimately find the book’s answers to these questions to be compelling. This is to say, while I was really interested in Alina’s relationship to June, for example, I didn’t feel like the book developed this relationship thoroughly enough. I mean, we know she has June’s soul; we “know” that certain traits (handedness, aptitude) are passed on from soul to soul; we know that this bothers Alina enough for her to fight her predisposition for these things (she forces herself to write with her left hand and refuses to become an awesome super-genius at math like June, because she’s worried about becoming like June).
I was really interested initially in Alina’s relationship to June for the first half of the book – where June is guiding her towards clues, and Alina finds herself recognizing objects and patterns and thought processes that she associates with June. It almost seems like there is something in Alina’s nature that knows and recognizes June’s previous work through space and time. By the book’s end, however, the novel seems to be pretty firmly on the side of free will – while Alina may have June’s soul, her decisions are her own – she’s not condemned to commit June’s crimes and she can fall in love with the teenage boy of her choosing View Spoiler » rather than June’s reincarnated lover, who is one of the folks behind her liberation. « Hide Spoiler This is fine, but I felt that the ending flattened some of the interesting questions raised by the book. The end emphasizes choice, which is all well and good, but I wanted further engagement with the question of what that choice looks like (or how free that choice actually is) in the face of reincarnation (or heredity or environmental factors – whatever “reincarnation” ends up being reducible to in this book). What choice does Alina actually have, especially when she spends most of her time retracing June’s footsteps?
Relatedly, I had some feels about the book’s stance on whether or not it’s ethical to (essentially) dox people who were psychopaths in their past lives. View Spoiler »By the book’s end, the study that states that violent killers have an 80% chance of being violent killers in subsequent lives has been discredited. But it’s discredited! and like the big revelation is that maybe it was wrong to dox these people because actually, the numbers were fudged, and there’s only a 32% chance that they’re going to be violent killers in subsequent lives. But … it’s still maybe not ethical? And there was only this one study, apparently? Which the numbers were fudged for? I don’t know, I still wasn’t satisfied that it’s maybe-ethical to let everyone know when violent killers reincarnate, and I realize that this is the most ridiculous sentence I have typed this week. Anyway. « Hide Spoiler
Reasons you should read this book: if you are interested in thinking about what shapes and forms who you are, and what kind of free will you may or may not actually possess? If you liked Sophie Jordan’s Uninvited or the film Minority Report, this book deals with similar questions. I will say that the first half of the book is very snappy and exciting, and I wish that the entire book had looked like that.
Has anyone else read this? If so, what do you think? How do you feel about the book’s premise?
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.