Thirteen tales from the USSR, ranging from the scintillating to the ordinary--but all offer a stimulating Russian perspective and a delightfully unjaded sense of wonder. The estimable Strugatsky brothers stand forth with a brilliant, gripping tale of spider-like alien machines visiting Earth. Kirill Bulychev's human-aliens escape their planet's appalling winters by time-traveling into next spring. Dmitri Bilenkin's exploration team is threatened by a huge, migratory plant-creature. And there are rewarding pieces from lesser-known names too: a couple of smart operators try to acquire priceless van Gogh paintings by time travel and trickery (Sever Gansovsky); a TV crew waits stolidly on the moon Iapetus for the heroic crew of an interstellar mission to return (Vladimir Mikhailov); and, in an experiment in rejuvenation, the rejuvenees give up their human memories and emotions for machine-like scientific precision of thought (Ilya Varshavsky). True, there are routine entries too--about an alien child, an alien castaway who doesn't believe in the existence of Earth, Mephistopheles as an alien visitor, a wily galactic bureaucrat, an imponderable game of chess. But this is strongly appealing work in the main--which would have added up to a top-level volume if someone had bothered to provide some much-needed introductions and background information.