A fine retrospective, featuring 26 variations, 1960-89, this is a companion volume to Aldiss' splendid Best Science Fiction Stories (Matt in his Time, 1989). Maybe, Aldiss jokes in deadpan British style, he should next put together a Best Nondescript Stories. As before the foundation of Aldiss' success is his impeccable technique coupled with his rare knack of creating believable characters and projecting them into bizarre and disturbing but in some way logical situations. Only one story here, ""Old Hundredth,"" is truly famous (it also appears frequently as science fiction, so perhaps it's all a matter of interpretation), and, like many of the entries here, its complexity defeats easy characterization. The themes are more straightforward--though routine fantasy elements like elves, dragons, swards, and so forth, are notably absent--and dwell on art and its creation, the psychology thereof, the conflict between past and future, medicine, God and playing God, the past and its imprint on the present, love in all its guises, and the nature of evil. Aldiss gives his stories lifelike settings (he is a noted traveler) that range from England, India, and Eastern Europe via the distant future to the unrecognizably timeless. Less celebrated than his science fiction, then, certainly set forth in quieter modes, but no less fascinating, with curious and wonderful treasures to be enjoyed by discerning readers.