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on April 21, 2012
This kindle single was an unexpected treat to read. Although I do love science and science fiction, I'm definitely not overly knowledgable about microbiology and the like; however, that did not keep me from enjoying this little tale. It's the story of a tiny being, something so small as to be insignificant to the human eye, yet so elementally and substantially important as to survive life after life, and civilization after civilization. This is the journey of that small entity, a truly old soul acting on a primordial instinct to seek the light as it leaves its dying human host and struggles to make its way to a new host.

On this strange journey, we follow along as 'it' hitches a ride from amoeba to dust mite, from flea to fly, from one animal to the next, continuing on in its quest to take root in some other being which will give it a rebirth. This story really does make you think of reincarnation, of past lives and memories, and of those times you may have felt as if you had been somewhere before, or felt as if you had a connection to a place far away from your birth, perhaps another place and time in existence.

The being's journey was complicated, making this reader feel anxiety and a great expectation to see just how this would all play out. Although the utimate goal was surely seen, it made that final destination and new home no less remarkable. The Old Soul is a very interesting read, and although a fairly quick read at 18 pages/300 locations, this short story builds the excitement and leads the reader down a curious path of thinking and wondering about that very thing which makes us more than our human body, to consider just what exactly is the soul and how many homes can it have. Really, an incredibly interesting little story, very well written and perfectly balancing science with the unknown and the mystical.
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"The Old Soul" was one of the most original and thought-provoking stories I've read in quite some time. In some ways it was reminiscent of the film "Fantastic Voyage," where a tiny submarine and crew traveled through a human body. But in "The Old Soul," the traveler was a microscopic entity that had to leave Dr. Charles Filippini's body immediately after his death. The story implied (or at least hinted) that the entity was his soul, which needed to find and inhabit another higher form of life, no matter how long it took or how circuitous the journey.

The details of the entity's journey were fascinating. The term is probably over-used, but this was indeed a page-turner, one that I finished in only half an hour. In one of Tom Clancy's novels, there was a mesmerizing nanosecond-by-nanosecond description of the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Author Joseph Wurtenbaugh's step-by-step account of the microorganism's journey to find another host was equally compelling stuff.

And at the end, you may rethink your beliefs about the significance of a "deja vu" experience.
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on May 19, 2012
I came across this sci-fi short story randomly and thought, "Hey, for 99 cents why not?". What a great surprise! This little story of the Old Soul, of That-Which-Had-Been, is one of the most unique pieces of fiction I've read in a long time. While there are very specific descriptions of micro-organisms battling it out and microanatomy, it doesn't read dryly at all. It's a different kind of fantastic voyage. Biology meets spirituality meets science fiction!

The other perk is that the small snippets of human characters are very well written. He manages to do a lot of character development in just a few sentences. I just really enjoyed it and think it is definitely worth your time and your dollar to give this single a quick read. Based on this single, I am now reading his novel Thursday's Child, written under the name Josephine Wurtenbaugh.
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on May 3, 2012
This is a skillful piece of short fiction written in an effortless style, even though the author envisions the complex and agonizing journey of a certain biochemical molecule through a process of death to rebirth.

Imagine a short story in which the viewpoint character is a biochemical molecule!

Well, that's what this author did, and the result for most readers will be a compelling page-turner they'll gobble up in less than an hour of leisurely reading.

One of the things I like about "The Old Soul" is that it defies genre. I can't decide: Is this science fiction, New Age spirituality or perhaps the ancient Vedic concept of reincarnation re-framed with the viewpoint of a modern-day molecular biologist? But that's a side issue. It doesn't really matter because this is a work that stands on its own, and for what it is.

While I found this an entertaining, insightful and provocative read, I dare say it will not be everyone's cup of tea, or I should say, not everyone's bowl of biochemical soup. Our heroic biological molecule will do battle with myxoviruses, rhinoviruses and icornaviruses -make a thrilling escape down the microbiological food chain - only to face absorption by a marauding entamoeba hystolica - which it cleverly outsmarts by blending unobtrusively into the amoeba's cytoplasm! And it's just getting started!

How about that!

A minor mystery for me is the identity of the author, which is listed as Joseph Wurtenbaugh. The copyright is under the name of Frank Dudley Berry, Jr. - and at the end, the author encourages us to check out his (her?) book, "Thursday's Child" which is published as Josephine Wurtenbaugh.

Again, this is a side issue of little consequence. Whether it's by Frank, Joseph or Josephine, this is a fine piece of literature.
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on June 30, 2012
Short story, really, that took about three sentences to grab me, keep me reading and re-reading until the end. I found I had to go back and reread portions often, just to savor the journey. I expect I'll be rereading this one frequently. The Old Soul is special, very special.
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on August 30, 2012
This story immediately grabbed my attention. I liked the way it began. A man dies and then what we would call the soul, in the form of a biochemical organism, begins its flight from the body.

The flight (or escape) from the body involves using other microorganisms found on the body, taking control of them as it jumps from one organism to the next, making its way toward the surface. What had been an interesting story soon grew tedious.

Once outside the body, the whole process begins anew. The soul (or biochemical organism) now uses larger organisms (cats, fish, chickens, etc.) as it jumps from one creature to another, anything that will help it to reach its goal. I kept waiting for something to happen, but the story was somewhat like a tiresome road trip.

Now I definitely liked the story's idea and the author's writing, but it was way too long for what took place.
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on May 5, 2012
Interesting concept and pretty good writing but what is up with all the annoying typos? If you don't care enough to do some basic editing then don't offer it for sale - give it away free because that's what it's worth. Honestly, it feels like you just don't respect your product or your customer.
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on September 7, 2012
The title is what received my attention and the price. I enjoy singles for quick reads at a good price. This one had a odd twist to the concept of an "old soul" that treated the soul as if it were a virus that would lay in wait for a host but had no choice about it. I was grateful it was a single and not a novel. The concept held the story for the short time it took to read it. It was only interesting for that amount of time.Good for "I want to read something in one sitting that is different".
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on June 18, 2012
I don't normally read short stories, but decided to give "The Old Soul" a try; I was not disappointed. The details the author wove into the story made it easy to visualize and to feel, as though, you were actually a part of it. I would recommend this story to other readers and, especially, to writers looking for examples on providing vividly detailed scene descriptions.
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The third paragraph of this fascinating novella caught my attention and the novella never let me go:

"Cut off from the great cranial memory banks, That-Which-Had-Been-Charles-Filippini lost its specific awareness of that identity almost at once. For a few microseconds, fluttering memories -- a long and distinguished career as a chemist and industrialist, a wife name Laura, the taste of fresh strawberries, children (what were their names?), candlelight, weeping, a blurry fading sensation that his left foot itched, the hiss (of steam? of water?) heard ten minutes before - or perhaps 70 years before, or perhaps 700 years, or maybe 70,000. Death had destroyed all temporal benchmarks. Death had destroyed time itself."

The story of the journey of that tiny entity plays out in a truly original way. At times I remembered Mozart's description in Mozart: Great Mass in C minor; Ave Verum Corpus of the soul's journey, those few bars when the sopranos communicate the momentary terror of the soul, followed by the solidity of the male voices reassuring and yet terrified at a deeper level as well.

There were intense echoes of William Goldings's Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin, with hints of an allegory of purgatory and damnation.

Wurtenbaugh captures a bit of the style and the textual meaning of Ambrose Bierce's Present at a Hanging.

But most of all, this novella stands firmly on its own -- even the author's identity doesn't give any clues. As Amazon writes: "Joseph Wurtenbaugh is the pen name of an individual, who, if he or she wished to be identified, would have provided more information."

This fine story provides a great deal of information, not only on the page, but also in the imagination of the reader. It holds my interest several hours after I finished reading it, and I plan to re-read it again in a few days -- I'm sure it will be as rewarding the second time through.

Robert C. Ross
April 2012
Revised March 2015
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