Eight well-known tales, 1976-85, from the author of The Memory of Whiteness (1985). ""Black Air"" is the story of the ill-fated Spanish Armada's attempt to conquer England, as witnessed by orphan-monk Manuel, who survives through various divine interventions. ""The Lucky Strike"" speculates on what might have happened if the pilot of the aircraft Enola Gay had refused to atom-bomb Japan. And in ""Venice Drowned,"" venal tourists loot the eerie, sunken ruins of future Venice. Also, the less famous entries: on Mercury, in a movable city geared to perpetual sunrise, an amoral sleuth searches for a murderer and skilled forger of Monet paintings; a drifter at an Arizona truck stop slips into another dimension; a futuristic Jacobean drama performed by actors with implanted cues is haunted by a real murderer; some space miners revive Dixieland jazz; and three college friends take a walk in the snows of the Sierra Nevada. Readers content to sit back and be mesmerized will find Robinson's artful technique and general air of imponderability alluring. However, those of a more analytical persuasion will wonder what lies beneath the richly textured, impressive exteriors, and conclude: nothing much.