The Incrementalists by Steven Burst and Skyler White published in 2013 is a science fiction novel about a secret group which has been influencing human behavior for thousands of years. This type of conspiracy theory theme seems to be a common plot device in science fiction literature. However, unlike many secret societies, The Incrementalists are actually trying to help mankind instead of gaining power for themselves.
Incrementalists live almost forever, since when an Incrementalist dies, his or her soul and memories are implanted into the body of a new human who willingly accepts joining the group.
However, there are two main flaws with the whole system. The first is the obvious fact that this group does not seem to be very good at its job. The stated purpose of the group is to incrementally move human society to become better and better. Considering that in modern times there have been two world wars, instances of mass genocide and numerous sadistic dictators, you have to wonder how bad things would have been if this group had not been making everything better.
The second flaw is that the whole system really depends upon a series of murders. When the human body of an Incrementalist dies, the soul “merges” with a new human body. However, what really happens is that the person who already lives in that body dies. Since the memories and will of the incrementalist are so much longer and stronger than those of the person being entered, the soul that already inhabits the body is, in effect, completely overwhelmed to the point it no longer exists. That is, until the process is tried on a new human recruit (Reneee), who ends up being a much more strong willed young woman than anyone anticipated. Renee ends up being dominant, and as a result throws the whole group into chaos.
This is an enjoyable book and the dialog is smoothly written. I would recommend it even for people who are not normally science fiction readers.