On the basis of this first hardcover collection--two novellas and four substantial stories, 1978-82, drawn from magazines and anthologies--Bear is one of sf's most impressive up-and-comers. For openers, there's the gripping title novelette, in which a young woman avenger-fanatic discovers the self-destruction in even the most nobly-motivated terrorism; and the lighter, wry tale of a boy, abetted by two mysterious yarn-spinning oldsters, who learns the value of fantasy and creativity. But the other stories form a heavier, more darkly fascinating group. In one, objective reality collapses, cities turn into forests, stone becomes flesh, and--in a crumbling cathedral held subjectively together by the piously cruel remnants of standard humanity--the offspring of a gargoyle and a nun documents the emergence of a new social order. In another, a dimension-traveling ship is attacked by "disruptors," producing a bizarrely jumbled reality of machines and creatures drawn from different parallel worlds. And the remaining pieces offer the Biblical lament of a dying, ambulatory cyborg-city (mourning the citizens its faulty programming has caused it to expel into the desert) and the mindless, billion-year war between a frantic, pitiless no-longer-human race and incomprehensible, cold-planet aliens. Fractured, brooding scenarios with barely human protagonists: superior orthodox sf plus some of the most effective surrealism since J. G. Ballard--in a powerful, original, and startling package.