Sturm (The Secrets of Time, 2004, etc.) offers a philosophical novel that spans countries—and universes.
Danny Loveless is a middle-aged sales representative whose life isn’t awful, by any means. Although he’s growing apart from his wife, Sandy, they do have a life and a young daughter together, and his occasionally strained relationship with his boss doesn’t prevent him from doing well at work. However, when he meets a strange man named Byron Shepherd in a park, his life begins to quickly and unstoppably change. Shepherd, who seems to know all about Danny, promises to find him the girl of his dreams. Danny quickly becomes obsessed with Shepherd, and with finding out what he knows. As a result, Danny’s relationship with his wife becomes more distant, and finally so acrimonious that she leaves him. It turns out that Shepherd is on a quest to repair the universe, and that some people have been erased from history by a mysterious future race. Danny wonders whether his wife and child have become collateral damage in Shepherd’s quest when suddenly no one seems to know who they are. Finally, Danny makes his way to Japan, where Shepherd assures him his destined partner awaits. Rather than a true love, however, Danny finds many different women and a curious, cult leader–like figure from California. Sturm’s intriguing choice to position this novel as a collection of stories by Danny’s psychiatrist makes the narrative just unreliable enough to raise continuous questions. Despite this, however, readers will still find it easy to believe that Danny truly has been chosen to fulfill an important role in the world. The book is full of somber meditations (“He lay in a kind of half-sleep, examining and re-examining the pieces of his life until his existence became an abstraction, like a word repeated too often”) as well as farcical encounters. But as readers engage with Danny’s difficult personality and choices, they’ll find that his great tragedies and small lusts amount to an engaging statement about the condition and future of humanity. Shepherd, the man from the future, is similarly compelling, as he ends up representing what’s possible—as well as what isn’t.
A considered, eventful fantasy story.