Book: The Rifles

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The Rifles: Volume 6 of the Seven Dreams sequence

Author: William T. Vollmann
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)

The Rifles 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.


Barnes and Noble

Sixth in a series of critically acclaimed historical novels examining the clash of Native Americans & their European colonizers. “The Seven Dreams sequence is likely to become one of the masterpieces of the century.” —Madison Smartt Bell, Chicago Tribune.

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