In The Atlas, William T. Vollmann presents his vision of our planet at the cusp, with old conflicts smoldering on and new miseries and estrangements multiplying. Bosnia, Phnom Penh, Jerusalem, New York, Mogadishu, the Arctic, a bazaar of fortune-tellers in Burma, a robber-infested disco in Madagascar - against these backdrops, Vollmann's tales live their own various and wildly different lives, from fable to surrealistic portrait to reportage. Above all, it is the human beings in this book who engage us: the old walrus hunter, the crack-addicted prostitute whose children have been taken away from her, the boxer brought in to lose, the drunken gypsy, and from time to time, of course, the author himself. Through their eyes, Vollmann writes of memory, oppression, loneliness, war, the thrill of the alien, and the infinitely precious pain of love. Arranged as a huge thematic palindrome, The Atlas showcases Vollmann's ability to build strange structures, sonnets composed of stories instead of words.