>Gray's vigorous, excessive drawings are the most off-putting element in this uneven collection of allegories and self-conscious myths: they attempt to turn whimsy (""The Star,"" ""The Great Bear Cult,"" ""The Spread of Ian Nichol"") into neo-Blakean prophecy; they also have the odd, apparently unintentional effect of making the more serious pieces here seem more vaudevillian than they are. Still, a few of Gray's critical/prophetic sketches--which have more to do with his first novel, Lanark, than its successor, 1982 Janine (above)--do score shrewd hits. Two stories about the ""axletree,"" a vast industrial tower set to turn the heavens from the earth, are together an intelligent (only slightly tendentious) allegory of industrialization and political determinism. ""Five Letters From an Eastern Empire""--two Oriental poets turned into political pawns--and ""Prometheus""--an attempted re-write of Aeschylus--are strong, jaundiced, conservative commentaries. But Gray's fondness for his own pictures and lots of typesetting tricks are stumbling blocks for the reader on nearly every page. So this is an only-fair sampling of a writer fascinated with first causes and public deformations, marred by self-indulgent eccentricity throughout.