Anthology of 20 stories--some political, fantastical, satirical, but, alas, mostly slight--with an introduction that provides historical background and discusses the development of the fictional narrative in Central America. More than half of these stories deal with war or politics--not surprising, considering recent conflicts in the region and the political commitments of many of the writers--but there's a range: satires, social sketches, tales of murder and passion, and a piece by Sergio Ramirez (Vice-President of Nicaragua) about a father at a baseball game who watches his son very briefly become a national hero. Jacinta Escudos (El Salvador) and Horacio Castellanos Moya (Honduras) enter the minds of guerrilla fighters and share their emotions without delineating their politics, while Manlio Argueta (El Salvador) has his heroine-narrator explain, in the cadences of rural speech, exactly what drove her to join the underground. Most of the more interesting and artistic stories come from Guatemala, which has a strong tradition of fiction-writing: Arturo Arias looks at the aftermath of a coup through the eyes of a child emerging out into the corpse-strewn street; the somewhat experimental narrative of Mario Roberto Morales presents a consciousness haunted by the image of a young guerrilla; Augusto Monterroso's fable tells of a gringo who develops industry--a headhunting industry--in the Amazon; Mario Payeras offers a simple tale in lush, metaphysical prose; and Rodrigo Rey Rosa is brief and ironic, telling about a little boy who kills a canary, challenging God to prove His existence by resurrecting it. The various translators do well, except for a failed attempt to re-create Fabian Dobles' use of Costa Rican vernacular. Hardly indispensable fiction, but a welcome sampler for those interested in Central America.