Servant’s of the Map by Andrea Barrett

I’d heard about Andrea Barrett’s short story collection Servants of the Map, years ago while living in Nebraska. It was shuffled away on my to read list, and for some reason the book rose up again on my horizon. When I began it, I had a sense of dejavu. It all seemed so familiar. I’m pretty sure I’ve read the title story in an anthology. It’s a good story, captivating and interesting. The main character is surveying the Himalayan mountains as part of the British surveying teams in the 1800’s.

The stories are imbued with science and the wonder of early science as people’s notions of the fantastic were supplanted by Darwin’s work and others.
However, the other stories are not as good. A few of the characters repeat, so it begins to be a little confusing trying to see which stories might link up. Barrett is a talented writer, but I’m not sure about the length of what she writes. It seems she would comfortable writing a novella, as most of her stories run pretty long.

While I enjoyed this work, it also began to drag. The setting began to feel more like a backdrop, and it annoyed me that all of the characters seemed to be taking part in this early scientific discussion. Perhaps, that is what life was like, but it felt like a theme that became a prison. Very repetitive.

My advice is to pick out the title story and give it a go, while leaving the rest of the stories for another time.

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