Incarnation is a metaphysical thriller. Written in the past tense, third person point of view, Kelsey is the main character, a scientist at BioVenture where she works for Myron Crouch who was once a student of Kelsey’s father. For the most part Kelsey lives a quiet life until she goes skiing with Harrison, one of her colleagues, and gets swept under an avalanche. When Kelsey is taken to the hospital, doctors diagnose her with a head injury but are unable to explain the coma she was in and connect her with a therapist to help Kelsey through the amnesia.
During the course of healing from the accident, Kelsey discovers she has an unusual and inexplicable link to what appears to be another life. Her childhood imaginary friend Iriel is now a mysterious young girl that Kelsey is determined to open up to in order to learn more about Iriel and about herself. Meanwhile, as Kelsey is caught between two worlds, she’s also caught between two men –Harrison and Stan. The former is fond of her though hesitant in his approach due to Kelsey’s mother who verbalizes her immediate dislike of him. Stan is a powerful lawyer with somewhat controlling behaviors. He quickly befriends Kelsey’s mother, sneaks into Kelsey’s house when she’s not there, and even drives by Kelsey’s therapist’s office when she’s there for an appointment.
Hays writes detailed scientific information which was a challenge for me to follow. While the specifics are necessary to move the story along, they slowed the pace of the story a great deal. Unfortunately, the pace was already somewhat staggered. The story segments were fragmented and brief and I had difficulty switching from one scene to the next.
The other thing about Incarnation that didn’t work for me was the level of character depth. Kelsey’s story is mysterious and interesting. However, the character was distant and disengaged from most of her story. “Kelsey just shrugged as she left. The day felt very fine as she walked to her car.” 83 In addition, the main character’s lack of decisiveness and engagement in the storyline as well as in her relationships was frustrating. “…he gave off a faint odor of alcohol and she thought maybe he’d been drinking.” 85 Kelsey Dupuis is a scientist. Her career is befitting of an individual who studies evidence and makes decisions. Yet she isn’t even sure if the man she is with had been drinking despite the fact that he gives off the smell of alcohol.
My favorite character in the story is Stan. Despite his creepy behaviors and controlling tendencies, his odd and overt drug use, and his overeager attempts to hurry along a relationship with Kelsey, Stan is the most developed character in the story. He’s unique and believable in his demeanor. Had the other characters been given the same attention, they might have held my attention more.
I think Incarnation is a book that science fiction readers, science lovers, and individuals who enjoy poetry would read. Iriel’s past life story intertwined with Kelsey’s modern day frustrations make for a balanced novel and gave the story a poetic feel to it. In some ways, I think Iriel’s story might even have made a good stand-alone novella, reaching an entirely different kind of reader.
Overall, I’d give Incarnation a 2 and ½ star rating. Though I would recommend it to science fiction readers and would be interested in reading their reviews.
Have you read Incarnation? I'd love to hear what you thought of the book!
Laura Davis Hays is a California native, the only child of a theoretical physicist and a librarian. Her prize-winning body of work includes a forthcoming fantasy series, the Atlantis Material, and a collection of linked stories set in Denmark, her ancestral homeland, in the early twentieth century. Hays is also an accounting consultant, a performing pianist, a composer, and a skier. She and her husband live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with their two cats, Rufus and Dexter.
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