A second collection from Robinson (The Planet on the Table, 1986), this one comprising 14 tales (plus an unclassifiable fictional essay), 1986-91, whose general theme is the mutability of history. Two yarns stand out: the grim, horrifying picture of near- future Washington, D.C. (``Down and Out in the Year 2000'') and ``The Lunatics,'' whose brutalized, brainwashed miners in the moon make an unusual bid for freedom. Also noteworthy: a well-handled but far-from-original reality-becomes-dream/dream-becomes-reality yarn; a historian ponders the 20th century, seeking a source of optimism; and the essay, which considers, with reference to the atomic bombing of Japan, quantum physics, chaos theory, and whether history is inevitable. The remainder offer rather bland variations on: decadence, alternate histories, magic realism, inner being, glaciation, apartheid, and Zurich. Beautifully, often lyrically presented; descriptive rather than prescriptive; often intelligent--but what's missing is inner fire, undercurrents, a sign that Robinson is doing something more than merely holding up a cleverly angled mirror.