After the disappointment of The Anna Papers (1988), Gilchrist returns to form in this fourth collection: fictions follow their own whims and reintroduce lost waifs and willful belles with runaway libidos. This one also offers two new endings to The Annuciation (1987), her first novel. Most of the characters here are full of charming gestures and well-meaning (if slender) philosophizing that work in short takes. In ""The Tree Fort,"" we meet Rhoda Manning again. Her brother Dudley loses an eye, but she remains ""pure energy, clear light, morally neutral. . ."" In ""The Time Capsule,"" she realizes that ""Anything could happen to anyone at any time,"" and rebellion against such a fate is the theme of the book: ""You won't make me die, you goddam old God, to hell with you."" ""Some Blue Hills at Sundown"" sends Rhoda to visit a dying boyfriend, while ""Mexico,"" the longest story, gives free rein to her typical Gilchrist philosophy: ""She considered her boyfriend, who did good dependable useful work in the world and how boring and pointless it was to make love to him."" Another group of stories (""The Starlight Express,"" the title story, ""Traceleen Turns East"") allows familiar characters--Nora Jane (space cadet), for instance--and new ones--Lin Tan Sing, Chinese geneticist--to meet-cute and discuss the universe and amniocentesis (among other things) before all tums out well. The same goes for ""The Song of Songs"" and ""Life on Earth,"" postscripts to The Annuciation: Amanda (from that novel) has her baby, and both her older estranged daughter and her young lover are happy. Finally, ""The Man Who Kicked Cancer's Ass"" lets a hair-pieced redneck pretend to be healthy for his drinking buddies at happy hour. Gilchrist's stories call out to each other: this collection, middling on its own, should be read in tandem with Victory over Japan and Drunk with Love to fully appreciate her delicate and nervy talent.