Peter Rock's previous fiction has always been a bit strange, like the story of a medical test subject (The Ambidextrist) or the one about a father and daughter who secretly live in a huge park in Portland, Oregon (My Abandoment). The Shelter Cycle continues the trend.
It's about a real-life religious cult, the Church Universal and Triumphant, whose adherents believed the world was going to end in the 1980s. Before writing the novel, Rock talked with some of the church's members, strengthening his ability to make us believe in their world of Ascended Masters, the Messenger, Elementals, Undines and Sylphs.
In one narrative thread, "letters" written by young Francine describe her life in the church and what she and others believe. Francine lives with her family and close friend Colville in a Montana fort/shelter established by church members, now honeycombed with underground houses. "People would live inside them," she writes, "once the world all around us was no longer there."
The novel's other story is set near Boise, Idaho, and concerns a missing nine-year old girl. Wells Davidson and Francine, now married and pregnant, have been helping look for her. Colville's surprise appearance complicates everything. Rock does an excellent job of letting the two "stories" feed off each other, revealing more and more about these characters, their relationships and their beliefs--then and now. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher