The book is about an afterlife grunt named, appropriately, Bastard Zane, who works to ensure the karmic accountancy stays even-Steven for the Divine Calculator. See, the Divine Calculator, a crusty, detached, visor-bedecked old man who is only concerned with maintaining his “soulpool,” is the closest thing to God. And, all his grunts, like Zane, help him do that. In this world everyone who dies eventually is reincarnated, but those poor souls who, with their dying breaths, try and make deals for more time on the mortal coil get recruited by whichever grunt can get to you first. A deal is struck, you get more time, and then work for the Divine calculator until you can recruit someone to take your place. Sometimes, that takes decades, centuries even, and Bastard Zane, fed up with his job, is looking for his ticket out.
Actually, forget all that, this book is really about a man who dies too young. A genius, actually, who is young and in love and on his death bed actually divines the system. So, he makes a deal to go back in, but the catch is, he wants to remember everything. Well, he gets what he wants, and, in exchange, he is reincarnated, and all Zane has to do is wait. Because at the end of this second life, he’ll take Zane’s position and Zane will be free. If only it were that simple.
The story is the real gem of this work, but PJ Holden’s art is very good, too, if a little inconsistent. The story is a cat-and-mouse game about love and chance and fate. It’s complex and confusing at times. And, Spurrier has built in a pacing-nightmare for himself, having this character reincarnate over and over again, so it feels like many stories crammed together; however, the ending so cleverly and so beautifully wraps everything up in a nice little bow, that you can’t help but be impressed. It’s surprising and fresh and a whole lot of fun.