Bender has the capability of answering the kinds of questions we have wondered about since the beginning of our species. Who are we? Why are we here? What happens to us when we die? Where do we go next?
I know that Bender may be named after the machine which can reveal your past lives, but I think that I associated the title more with the explorational journey Alexander Rigby takes us on to uncover how we feel about past lives, our humanity, and the belief that love conquers all. What struck me most when I was writing this book review of Bender was the philosophical ideas that it weaves in and out of its plot and characters until you end the book and sort of stagger away.
Little did I know I was constructing my unnatural feat of humanity along the edges of an ocean.
But let me begin with a short summary of the book. Bender tells the tale of four protagonists: a princess form Egypt, an artist from Italy, a man from Pennsylvania, and a botanist. All of these storylines are occurring and weaving together as our main timeline, the future botanist begins to reveal the mysteries of her own life.
Heartbreak can make you feel as if you are dying. It can make you feel like you have nothing left to live for. It can make you feel inhuman.
One of the main issues taken up in the novel is the question of whether our past lives expose who we really are, at an essential level, and what this says about humanity. What impact do these lives and experiences have on our present and who are we really? It almost feels as if this is a series of short stories, that are interlaced together to tell a larger story, to paint a grander picture about who we are and what our lives mean if we live again and again. What role do we play and where does fate come into play?
There are big questions at work here and I do not think all of them are as explored as I would have liked, but the examination of fate and love, I felt, were well developed. This story asks question after question and does not serve us easy answers. It is open-ended and we are left to make up our own minds and come to terms with ourselves.
She was jealous I was a blank slate, fresh and clean and naïve of the realities of what had occurred in the lives before. I was jealous she was a painted canvas, complex and colorful and aware of the mysteries of what had transpired in the instances we previously lived.
This fantastic journey we are taken on is made even more colorful by passages of delightful word play. The characters take on different roles and flaws which are revealed to us by their perspectives. I enjoyed each of them for different reasons: unshakable belief in love, self-confidence to defy expectations, the inability to let go, and the hesitancy to make a leap of faith. (But if I had to pick, I would have picked Renzen).
Each section has a different tone, ranging from noble to angry to introspective. Coming together seamlessly, the details and insights are revealed in the present. But even that knowledge is challenged, for is this the present or is it the future, perhaps even the past. If we are to believe that love truly conquers all, is it powerful to triumph over multiple lives? To intertwine our lives, some force bringing us all together over and over to receive our second, third, and fourth chances?
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Let’s Discuss, do you believe in past lives?
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If you liked this review, you may like my review of To Dream: Anatomy of a Humachine