Eight interrelated vignettes set in Australia's less-traveled, tropic ways, by the prolific Australian novelist (Reaching Tin River, 1990, etc.). Here, narrator Leverson--a one-legged, sardonically self-styled ""motelier""--introduces the odd little scattering of hapless people who live in his ""Mango,"" a tired place of wet leaves, where Leverson himself watches cartoons and observes the ""brief congruences"" of strangers and neighbors. There's a magic, but also a sadness, that makes him, at the close, ""ache like a tooth."" Among the flotsam of Mango: an old odd-job man who writes terrible poetry, and a young, puffy Jesus-freak, whose love reaches only a diminished seventh; two fierce prelates and their varieties of cruelty; an aging woman who has cultivated loneliness and insularity to bitter rejection; a charming braggart, ""one of nature's dazzling failures"" who lets lie fallow his one mighty gift--a beautiful singing voice, self-parodied at boozy parties; a woman who inches her way into a horrid sadomasochistic relationship, finding in a damaging lover ""the desired coefficient, the necessary factor of disaster she craved and detested."" Throughout, drifting hippies exhibit callousness and driven self-destruction. The title story, possibly the best, in which an icily cruel man stages a stalking mock-hunt and ""capture"" of a pineapple, as a joke to entertain a female guest, symbolizes neatly the arid result of living as ""all excitability and want."" Finally, Leverson leaves for a talk about spirit and soul with a philosophical friend, as he ponders life and ""an unending accretion of alternatives."" Life among the lost, enriched and compassionately appreciated by Astley's bitter humor--which stings and vivifies.