Eight stories, 1962-85, exploring what Ballard views as a grandiose and mesmerizing yet ill-judged and ultimately doomed enterprise: the manned exploration of space. One of Ballard's finest stories, "The Cage of Sand," describes an abandoned future Cape Canaveral, rustling, littered with evocative hardware, buried in Martian sand. contaminated with a plant-destroying virus. One man walks the only Martian sand he will ever experience; with him a woman waits for the space capsule containing her dead husband to fall from orbit. Another story, "The Dead Astronaut," merely embellishes this latter motif. Later, Ballard introduces an obsession with abandoned, antique aircraft (cf. Empire of the Sun). "News from the Sun" adds the idea of expanding, or slowing, psychological time (cf. "The Voices of Time"). The title piece combines all these ideas; "Myths of the Near Future" rearranges them, as if Ballard is seeking an elusive perfection. Elsewhere, two unrelated stories sparkle. One, reminiscent of top-drawer H.G. Wells, concerns the descent of a space capsule into the Amazon rain forest. In the other, space travel becomes a matter of perception rather than substance. Almost always, Ballard--with his psychological mazes and visual surrealism--impresses and fascinates. But he can irritate, too, by wandering off into private obsessions, by convulsively re-exploring and overembroidering to the point of suffocation. Worthwhile, certainly, but more variety would have served this fine writer more justly.