Synopses & Reviews
establishes more firmly than ever before that William Vollmann is, in the words of the The Washington Post
, "the most prodigiously talented and historically important American novelist under thirty-five." This work, the sixth in Vollmann's projected seven-novel cycle examining the clash of native Americans and their European colonizers, is at once a gripping tale of adventure, a contemporary love story, and a chronicle of the ongoing destruction of Inuit lifeways.
It is one hundred and fifty years ago. Our continent has been mapped east, west, and south, but the white explorers who hope to discover the Northwest Passage have found only ice and death. Sir John Franklin cheerful, determined, and dangerously rigid sets out to complete the Passage with hundreds of men and supplies for three years. This is the third Arctic expedition he has commanded; on both of the others he has defied the warnings of the Inuit and Indians he's encountered along the way. This time he's not coming back.
By 1990, Franklin and his mapmakers have conquered. In the prefabricated towns of the Canadian North, teenagers are sniffing gasoline, and the Inuit families who were forcibly relocated by the government in the 1950s are starving and have lost their sense of purpose. Reepah, a young Inuk woman in hopeless circumstances, is seduced and left pregnant by a white man who, terrified by his own self, prepares to assume Franklin's fate.
Written with the same stylistic daring and gritty realism which has characterized all of his work, The Rifles weaves together these stories form the past and the present with Vollmann's own travels. Most dramatic of all is his eerie account of a midwinter solo trip to the North Magnetic Pole, which he put himself through at considerable personal risk in order to relive, through imagination, the last days of the Franklin expedition.
"The elliptical, frenetically snapshot style grows tiresome at times, and one has the sense that Vollmann is desperately at work on historical material that is yielding little that is new, making his own increased presence a necessity." Publishers Weekly
"[O]ne of Vollmann's most enjoyable books." Library Journal
The latest installment of Vollmann's seven-part epic chronicling the clash of Europeans and Native Americans in the New World. Volume six focuses on the white explorers of the mid-1800s, desperately dreaming of forging a Northwest passage.
Vaulting through time to another flashpoint in the long struggle between Indians and Europeans, William T. Vollmann's visionary fictional history now focuses on the white explorers of the mid-1800s, desperately dreaming of forging a Northwest Passage. As Sir John Franklin embarks on his fourth Arctic voyage, he defies the warnings of the native people, and his journey ends in ice and death. But his spirit lingers in the Canadian north, where 150 years later, in 1990, Inuit elders dream of long-gone seal-hunting days and teenagers sniff gasoline. And when a white man seduces and leaves pregnant a young Indian woman, he becomes Franklin reincarnated, bound for the same fate. Vollmann's vivid characters and landscapes weave together the stories of the past and present to live out America's ongoing tragedy of greed, ignorance, and violence.
About the Author
William T. Vollmann, the recipient of the 2005 National Book Award for Europe Central, is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction. He lives in California.