Six previously uncollected tales from the author of The Snow Queen and its recent sequel World's End (1983). The best and most sure-footed is the title piece--a touching, well-realized post-nuclear love story. Elsewhere, however, strained plots and YA-ish tendencies mar some enterprising if not particularly original ideas. Some benign silicon-based aliens interfere with a human culture struggling back from barbarism after plagues have left many deaf, dumb, or blind. The robot guardian of some ancient war ruins on Mars snares a couple of human explorers. There's a distraught fable about the defeat of an evil dragon by the powers of inner good. A yarn about psi-powered human-alien halfbreeds slips into mawkishness. And, written with ex-husband Vernor Vinge, there's a rambling, inconsistent tale about the overthrow of a far-future dictatorship. With one exception, then: uncertain, uninspired, overwrought recyclings, mostly for uncritical admirers.