In this collection of ""tales and vignettes,"" Pohl returns to his Heechee universe (Gateway, Blue Event Horizon, etc.). But it's a mix--to be released with a hundred illustrations by Frank Kelly Freas (not seen)--that reads more like the author's notes, a body of anecdotes that fill in the background of his Heechee novels. The one complete tale, ""The Merchants of Venus,"" is the deftly told story of Audee Walthers, airbody driver and tour operator, who lives by fleecing Earth tourists on Venus. Audee needs a new liver, and if he doesn't get a rich client soon--or strike it rich with a Heechee artifact--he'll die. He thinks he's found that client in Boyce Cochenour, but he discovers--too late--that Cochenour needs money just as badly as he does. The rest of the pieces, though, are well-written speculations on the Heechee, spiced with meditations on planetary and stellar physics, evolution, sociology, and the future of the human race. More history text than story, the characters of the vignettes are barely seen shadows, a background for pure speculation. Despite the one novella and interesting science, then, this is only the skeleton of something better.