From Publishers Weekly
Following the novel Project X and Love and Hydrogen: New and Selected Stories, Shepard's new collection takes in landscapes as diverse as 1986 Chernobyl in "The Zero Meter Diving Team," to 1840s down under in "The First South Central Australian Expedition." It's clear that Shepard has done his research in these 11 first-person tales-be it on Alaskan tidal waves for a story about a man contemplating a vasectomy while reliving a childhood tragedy in "Pleasure Boating in Lituya Bay" or Sherpas and the Chang Tang tundra in "Ancestral Legacies", and his precision gives the poignant longing and human emotion of the stories room to resonate. Save for "Eros 7," about a lovelorn Soviet Cosmonaut set during the US/Russian space race, all are the stories are told by men, often with few female characters. At the core, each is essentially an exploration of familial relationships between men-be it the ill-fated trio of brothers working at the nuclear reactor or the unhappy adolescent camper calling home to find out about his mentally disturbed younger brother in "Courtesy for Beginners." Shepard's far-flung explorations get very close to the male heart.
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Recently nominated for the National Book Award, Jim Shepard’s latest collection of short stories struck a chord with reviewers, who couldn’t agree on which stories were the best. Though each story is related through first-person testimony, Shepard gives each narrator his or her own voice with its own subtle nuances, and he masterfully sets the characters’ internal conflicts at odds with their external predicaments. The characters are convincing despite the incredible dilemmas they face, and the stories themselves are at once deadly serious and darkly humorous. Shepard’s tales may be bleak: some reviewers found the unrelenting hopelessness a bit wearying and urged readers to savor them one at a time. Yet Shepard’s compassion and sympathy shine through in what reviewers claim is his best work yet.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.