Shepard disgorges ideas like a drunk or a junkie, streams of images described in visceral prose that essentially numb you to their force. An anaesthetic effect is present in stories like "Life of Buddha" (1988), in which a heroin addict provokes the transmutation of a male transsexual into a perfect woman. Shepard's characters crave freedom and transformation; the narratives over-reach and become baroque in their pursuit of it, and so lose some of their power. They express the central paradox of Shepard's work: his acceptance and celebration of claustrophobia and the "feeling of stricture" (as in "Griaule"), and his desperate raging against it.
In the jungles of Guatemala, David Mingolla is struggling to survive amongst the rotting vegetation and his despairing fellow foot soldiers. He knows he is nothing but an expendable pawn in an endless war. On R & R a few miles away from the warzone he meets Debora—an enigmatic young woman who may be working for the enemy—and stumbles into a deadly psychic conflict where the mind is the greatest weapon.