Master of Miniatures by Jim Shepard
56 pages/Cover art by Michael Kupperman
As in Nosferatu, with its smartly imagined life of the German film director F. W. Murnau, here Shepard considers the Japanese special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya and his cinematic inventions for the science-fiction movie we know as Godzilla. And like many of Shepard's stories, Master of Miniatures limns the intense and alienated world of a focused expert obsessed with his field of endeavor, at a cost to his marriage and children. For Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the fifties, America itself seemed king of the monsters, to be looked at with fear and awe. This is a poignant and important story that seems to me a summation and condensation of many themes that have preoccupied Shepard before. Like a diamond held aloft, each turn of this tale in his deft hand flashes still more light.
A perfect embodiment of mid-20th-century anxiety, Master of Miniatures touches on hubris and nuclear testing, lunatic perfectionism and fire-tornadoes and the schisms wrought by grief and silence. In Jim Shepard's deft and darkly brilliant tale about the master behind a legendary film, the complexities of creating a monster and shooting special effects resonate exactly with one man's inner life. No one writes like Shepard, quietly layering loss over loss—and no one orchestrates catastrophe better.
One of the pleasures of this novella is the context Shepard creates for a moment of history that has already attained cult status. By investing all the bells and whistles of fiction in Tsuburaya and his creature, he brings them both alive and gives us a fresh look at the familiar.
—Mike Harvkey, Publishers Weekly
This is probably his best work, along with his chilling 2004 school shooting novel, Project X. If there's a theme, it's this: Jim Shepard writes about alienation, about unbelonging, better than pretty much anyone else in America today.
—Michael Schaub, Bookslut