By Dennis Batchelder
Published July 2007
Date reviewed: August 13, 2007
Everyone is interested in the concept of immortality: the idea that our existence doesn’t have to end with our death, and that something of us survives to another level or comes back in a new form. Most of these theories are tied to a spiritual idea but Dennis Batchelder’s debut novel “Soul Identity” offers a new God-free idea of reincarnation – and does so in a very entertaining read.
Scott Waverly, a wisecracking security expert well-known for poking holes in his client’s systems, is contacted by an organization known as Soul Identity. The organization has a radical mindset: it claims to track the souls of its members through successive generations. Selected to help bring Soul Identity into the digital age, Scott must decide if he believes in their claims of soul connections while at the same time dealing with the machinations of ambitious members.
The idea of finding someone’s soul through an ocular fingerprint may seem like science fiction, but “Soul Identity” reflects a lot of thought on the author’s part to make it believable. Batchelder has written a compelling history for the group that spans ancient Egypt and Alexander the Great, and goes into considerable depth on the faith and interest that draws members into the organization.
This depth is backed up by an interesting group of characters and sites, such as a beautiful Russian computer expert, a group of Tibetan Buddhists and an elderly fortune teller with culinary-challenged nieces. Using extensive dialogue, the book creates distinct characters with such traits as Scott’s clear familiarity with computer security and the villains’ penchant for using Latin phrases.
Unfortunately, the dialogue is also tied to the main problem I had with the novel: with most pages consisting of at least 50 percent conversation, there is a lack of details such as scenery and description. When the book is focused solely on what people say, it also means that the action of the book is slowed down and the tension tends to fall away. (One personal complaint of mine: it gets a little annoying when every time a character says something in Latin, Russian or some other language they immediately provide a translation as if they were speaking to the reader directly.)
Despite this dependence on speech, I found “Soul Identity” to be a compelling novel with an interesting mythology and a sense of humor. Batchelder promises the series will continue endnotes, and if the same soul travels from book to book it should be equally engaging.