(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The protagonists in Shepard's elegant, darkly tinged stories of love, sometimes misplaced, are searching for something. There's Freya Stark, the ambitious heroine in "The Track of the Assassins," who sets out in 1930 across the Middle East desert with only a guide, a muleteer, and Marco Polo's Travels. Or the narrator of "Netherlands Lives with Water," who grapples with changes in global climate, relationships, and life in Rotterdam, all the while searching for a solution and knowing deep down there isn't one. In "Happy Crocodiles," a miserable WWII G.I. stuck in New Guinea thinks about his stateside girlfriend and her puzzling relationship with his brother while trying to survive the elements and the enemy. As in his earlier Like You'd Understand, Anyway, Shepard's characters cover a wide swath of experience: Department of Defense black ops researchers, avalanche scientists, the inventor of Godzilla. Or they're 38 and living with their mother, like Martin in "Boys Town." There's humor in unexpected places, particularly as glaciers melt and waters rise in "Netherlands," which reminds us that though what we've lost might be different, we're all missing something. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Inclined toward tales of obsession and risk, exceptionally imaginative Shepard is fascinated by the nexus of landscape and mindscape, passion and emotional paralysis. In his fourth highly original collection, stories set in the present dramatize debilitating isolation. A master of the demanding, hence, rare genre of historical short stories, Shepard portrays the bold explorer Freya Stark as she treks across the stony wilds of Iran in the early 1930s. All-but-forgotten scientific and military ventures are the catalysts for two breathtaking stories about love triangles; one involves avalanches in the Swiss Alps; the other, the devouring jungle of New Guinea during WWII. Japan's postwar trauma is beautifully evoked in a story about the special-effects genius and creator of Godzilla, Eiji Tsuburaya, who, like most of Shepard's male characters, thrives at work and fails miserably at home. Of particular eeriness is Shepard's take on Gilles de Rais, the fifteenth-century French serial killer who preyed on children. Shepard also envisions a catastrophic future in a tale about a Dutch hydraulic engineer battling family crises and rising sea levels. There is so much knowledge, insight, feeling, and artistry in each engrossing Shepard story, he must defy some law of literary physics.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist