The 14 tales in Robinson's ( The Planet on the Table ) new collection are an uneven blend; some strike home, but in others the characters are just short of interesting and the narratives tend to drag on too long. The best entries are the three that deal with history: the title tale, set in an alternate future where President Carter rescued the hostages in Iran in 1980; ``A History of the Twentieth Century, with Illustrations,'' about a historian in the late 1990s trying to chronicle the century's events, a task that turns depressing; and ``A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions,'' a fascinating examination of possible alternate futures that hinged on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The remaining tales range from light and amusing (``The Translator,'' ``Zurich'') to dull (``Muir on Shasta''), incomprehensible (``Before I Wake'') and insipid (``The Part of Us that Loves''). Though Robinson is a skilled writer, his work isn't engrossing enough to sustain an entire volume. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/02/1991 Release date: 12/01/1991 Genre: Fiction
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