Thirteen tangy tales, comprising the talented Swanwick's entire short-story output, ranging from logical fantasy to hard science fiction. Ideas based in memory, personality restructuring, and transcendence appear in several guises: aliens who absorb the memories of the slain; the long-term results of genetic engineering; the novella from which Swanwick developed his fine novel Vacuum Flowers; and another longer piece, featuring ghosts, nuclear war, and a godlike catalysis, that proves too frail for the burdens placed upon it. Elsewhere: a Philip K. Dick pastiche/tribute; interstellar travel via black holes; a superb fantasy involving Picasso; Mordred and Merlin contend, in a modern setting, with the survival of a polluted planet at stake; Philadelphia after a nuclear meltdown; and a barbaric post- technological US, obsessed with a re-created Janis Joplin, awaits spiritual rebirth. What makes Swanwick special is his ability to wring fresh, unexpected consequences from standard sf notions. And though nothing here approaches the splendor of his recent novel Stations of the Tide (1990), it's an impressive collection nonetheless.