Berenstain's debut shows him adept at explaining Indonesia and the world of expatriates, but less skilled at writing fiction. In Berenstain's Java, Westerners pursue their ambitions while seeking ""escape in ancient, brooding dreams of enchantment"" and expecting to be lured ""into the heart of some timeless mystery."" A travel writer intent on discovering an attraction never before included in a guidebook becomes unwilling to move on after witnessing a strange rite that, partly due to her presence, turns fatal. A zoologist in the Borneo jungle who feels ""a delicious thrill"" whenever he sights ""the magical creatures that his career depended on"" has his plans disrupted when his local assistants capture one of the study monkeys for superstitious reasons. A misanthropic Dutch botanist is threatened by forest fires and by the impending visit of a young upstart rival. In the only story set in the US, a California botanist sneers at the Indonesian colleague who talks to trees, but the Indonesian is able to hear the giant sequoias' desire for revenge. Throughout the collection, characters remain one dimensional, and stories often end with supernatural twists or moral messages--as when a crippled puppeteer, by his sheer presence, causes a scruffy radical to treat the US ambassador's wife with civility. Berenstain lives part of the year in Java, has worked as a field ecologist and written for National Geographic; though a knowledgeable provider of information about Indonesian culture, he never brings that world to life.