"These stories cap a fifteen-year project. From the Nile's depths to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, from volcano-racked islands to an asylum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, these are tales of ecstasy, epiphany.
This is [Mason's] first collection of short fiction, and it is full of stories that provide the nutrition of a novel at a tenth of the length ... Despite the range, and the fact that the stories were written over 15 years, the subjects and settings provide a pleasing unity. The grand pleasures of fiction are all here: rich, cushioning detail; vivid characters delivering decisive action; and a sense of escape into a larger world. The best story of all, though, might be one of interior drama. 'The Second Doctor Service' is a tale of possession that stands comparison with Maupassant’s terrifying 'The Horla', and reminds us that before we face our foes, first we must battle ourselves.
A master of descriptive prose, Mason structures many of the stories to complement the content ... Mason uses the ring as a metaphor for life, cycling through Burke’s thoughts about freedom and joy, sin and humiliation, each emotion landing with the speed and the blow of a well-placed punch ... A thread that runs through most of the stories is Mason’s fascination with science – not surprising, given his day job as a practicing doctor. But while his scientific training clearly informs his writing, it’s apparent that Mason has also never relinquished his sense of wonder. Mason demonstrates tremendous respect for his characters, even though his stories are set in times when the world often did not leave room for such considerations.
Pinpoint physical details and precisely articulated emotions collide with the mystical, while scientific quests drive characters to extremes ... With transporting empathy and feverish intensity, Mason portrays the brilliant naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who trustingly shared his theory of evolution with Darwin. Sheer wonder shapes the title story ... With touches of Borges and Calvino, Mason’s fabulist stories are works of tenderness and awe for human curiosity, passion, mad valor, and profound resiliency.