Culling the vastness of experience-from its bizarre fringes and breathtaking pinnacles to the mediocre and desperately below average--like an expert curator, Jim Shepard populates this collection with characters at once wildly diverse and wholly fascinating. A "black world" operative can't tell his wife a word about his daily activities, but doesn't resist sharing her confidences. A young Alpine researcher is smitten by the girlfriend of his dead brother, killed in an avalanche he believes he caused. An unlucky farm boy becomes the manservant of a French nobleman who's as proud of having served with Joan of Arc as he's aroused by slaughtering children. A free spirit tracks an ancient Shia sect, becoming the first Western woman to travel the Arabian Deserts. From the inventor of the Godzilla epics to a miserable G.I. in New Guinea, each is complicit in his or her downfall and comes to learn that, in love, knowing better is never enough.
As with Jim Shepard's other collections, these stories are diverse and always engaging. He conjures worlds and voices in stories that are at times heartbreaking and hilarious, and makes completely unfamiliar terrain seem believable and normal. The stories are obviously meticulously researched and rich with authentic detail - there are stories ranging from covert black ops scientific research, to medieval France. Highly recommended.