As there are bound to be in any such collection, there are a few false steps. "Small Blue Thing," in which Poe's Raven-actually a crow-corrects the record, isn't exactly bad; it's simply of a lesser caliber than the best, largely realist stories, something like an outtake nestled in the middle of a greatest-hits record. "Parallel Lines," on the other hand, is flawed in both conception and execution, marred by Bad Sex in Fiction award-worthy lines such as "She could feel it in the bottoms of her feet, so powerfully that later, that same night, she'd let him touch and tongue her secret pearl." Only women in stories like this have "secret pearls." A single goofy sex description is forgivable if it is in service of something greater, but the story ends as cheesily as it begins.