Russo’s first hardcover is a collection comprising 14 tales, 1987–99, drawn from various magazines and anthologies. Astronauts and space travel are the dominant themes. A grunt in Viet Nam, rather than endure the war, opts to depart with aliens in their UFO. “Listen to my heartbeat” wonders whether cyborg astronauts retain their essential humanity; “Liz and Diego” find a couple of alien space suits in the jungle, and can’t resist trying them out. When the space program collapses, an astronaut rejects the blandishments of the military, instead settling down patiently to wait until it revives. The occupants of a space lifeboat, trapped in a non-universe, slowly become unreal. Another astronaut becomes a rain god to drought-stricken aliens. A sculptor finds inspiration in an astronaut’s death by slow degrees. When the Earth is destroyed, the survivors pursue a meaningless existence on one of Saturn’s moons. And a man works for aliens who’re pursuing incomprehensible goals. Elsewhere, the fear of disease prevents normal human sexual contact. A woman being pursued through alternate realities finds a willing partner. A photographer enjoys strange encounters and finds new motivations. And dreams that become reality complicate a far-future eternal triangle.
No major ideas, but sometimes quietly effective, with other entries so understated as to be all but imperceptible.