cover image Gravity's Angels

Gravity's Angels

Michael Swanwick. Arkham House Publishers, $24.95 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-87054-162-9

This volume chronicles the career of one of the most impressive science fiction writers of the '80s. Almost all of Swanwick's ( Stations of the Tide ) short stories are collected here, from his impressive debut, ``The Feast of Saint Janis,'' to the most recent, ``The Edge of the World.'' Several commonalities in his works emerge: many future worlds are bleak after some sort of disaster; his characters are dominated by internal imperatives which, for good or ill, determine their fates; scientific and philosophical searches for knowledge are accompanied by a painful, sometimes tragic loss of innocence. In ``Mummer Kiss'' the chaos following a major nuclear meltdown has triggered a worldwide depression, while in ``Foresight,'' human memory works backward--everyone can ``recall'' their future but nothing of their past, and though they know what will heppen they cannot change it. Every story uses the traditional materials of the genre to explore deeper issues of character and conscience, and even when flawed--the otherwise exemplary ``The Man Who Met Picasso'' is all but ruined by its cop-out ending--Swanwick's work illustrates the power and potential of contemporary science fiction. (Aug.)