A first collection, made up of an author's note and 12 stories, on the suffering of the AIDS-afflicted and of the survivors--chronicled sometimes in a careful minimalist style, sometimes in patched-together efforts that fail to transform experience into satisfying fiction. ""What They Carried,"" is one of the best, despite its near-ripoff of the title, style, and structure of Tim O'Brien's ""The Things They Carried."" Even so, the derivative nature works on its behalf as the piece follows an AIDS victim and his circle from sickness to death and its aftermath for the survivors. By alluding to O'Brien's story, Currier dramatizes how the human struggle in the face of AIDS parallels our Vietnam experience. The title story contrasts pre-AIDS life with the present situation, where lovers learn ""to take not giant leaps but cautious steps...."" Again, it's moving material, but it never takes on a fully lived fictional life. By focusing his collection on AIDS, however, Currier does provide a plethora of perspectives. ""Jade"" tells of an older woman whose grandson died from the disease; ""Who the Boys Are,"" like ""What They Carried,"" stitches together instances surrounding visits to the sick narrator, who lives with his father; ""Jerry and Ethan"" concerns an AIDS breakup--sick Ethan decides to leave Jerry and move in with his homophobic mother; ""Civil Disobedience"" is about Kip, ""his own rebel"" who protests inaction; and ""What You Talk About,"" another litany, is about a blind date between two AIDS widowers. In other hands, this material has been explored more artistically (see especially The Body and its Dangers, 1990, by Allan Barnett). Mostly, though, Currier is effectively realistic enough to appropriate much of its drama.