Thirteen fairly recent pieces, including a weird alphabet and an amusing introductory poem, from the British sf/fantasy grandmaster (previous collections include A Romance of the Equator and Man in his Time). Here, two superb alternate-world yarns stand out: the hilariously ironic title piece -- which moves from an opulent, advanced Russia that never was to a Russia that, all too grimly, still is -- and a complex, eerie, shamanistic fantasy of a future that might never be. Also excellent are: alien creatures accidentally released on Earth who change things for the better; two alien word-lists, perplexingly translated, that entertain and amuse (""KEY HANG Annoying thoughts; robot with a conical head""); and a man in search of his stolen memories. Elsewhere, less impressively: a cockroach that thinks he's Kafka; Frankenstein's monster reflecting; a bizarre sex orgy in Oxford; and a fantasy involving the ancient gods of Egypt. A typically mixed bag, occasionally brilliant, often funny, always diverting.