Sometimes Fatal Events Have Occurred by John L. Sheppard is an inventive literary science fiction novel – a prequel to his also-inventive Explosive Decompression. This novel takes place centuries earlier, and even earlier than the present – the 90s. Buzz, an artist, is dying from brain cancer, and he’s visited by a woman from the future who says she can cure his cancer; she doesn’t want him to die because she loves his art. She has the ability to project her mind into the past, and soon Buzz needs to time travel himself in order to save the art lover who saved his life.
The epigraph by Borges tells a bit where the flavor of this novel is going. Sheppard is a hugely imaginative writer, deftly balancing humor, pathos and lyricism. Described as a “farce,” the book is at times mad-cap, while still keeping its core sincerity, which is a tough balance to muster. It’s the kind of genre-hopping novel that’s tough to pigeonhole, which is its key selling point, but maybe also tough to find an audience, which would be a real shame.
The novel, while getting into some far reaches of science, and even consciousness, also has a spirited satiric edge. It’s replete with tongue-in-cheek humor and societal observation; a book that would be well at home on a bookshelf alongside Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick. More people should write books like this.