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Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite
The Rider by Charles Simpson is an interesting book that explores the themes of life, death, and rebirth, a narrative with a strong appeal to readers who enjoy reincarnation and fans of Franz Kafka. Sixty-five-year-old Janusz Zalewski dies happily in 1915, and as he dies, he is certain of only one thing: reuniting with the love of his life. Nothing can be more exciting. After all, he’s lived a good life and has always believed in God. But he is shocked when he wakes up in the body of a newborn. He has memories of his previous life intact. Follow his adventures as he experiences death again and is reborn into another body, never forgetting anything about his past. Can he really die and move on to eternity? Why can’t he forget about his past lives and start from zero?
The Rider is a well-imagined work and the protagonist is an unusual character who goes through different existences, plagued by the fact that his memories of past lives stay with him. The psychological conflict has depth and the pathos is strong, as is the author’s exploration of both the psyche and the humanity of the protagonist. The story asks very powerful questions and provokes readers to consider alternatives to the fabled idea of heaven and eternity. What if life is transformed in other ways than what popular tradition tells us? Charles Simpson’s book is imaginative and I enjoyed the handling of character. It is deft and the overall writing is balanced. I found myself worrying about the protagonist and the suspense is so strong that it keeps the reader turning the pages, wanting to know what will happen to Janusz. The Rider is a novel that is nuanced, featuring strong existential and spiritual themes, and a protagonist that becomes a strong question in the minds of readers. I found myself asking: “What if the end leads to where I have never expected it would?”