When the Music's Over - Lewis Shiner I'm going to review these shorts as I read them since one can forget details and impact over the course of perusing the entire volume.

Reviews in detail:

"Introduction" - Lewis Shiner, ed. Not really anything to review here except to note that the purpose of this collection is to entertain the possibility that violence is not the solution to all problems. That the idea that "there will be war" as the title of Jerry Pournelle's collection series says is "a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"Peace of Mind" - Nancy Kress - 3 stars. I don't often read Kress. Not because I don't like her but because her stuff is often emotionally wrenching and exhausting (at least for me), not something to be read casually before going to bed. This story is short so it doesn't pack much of an emotional punch but the story about a man desperately racing against the clock to restore some sort of sanity to the world is effective. Like much of Kress's work, it deals with the human brain and how altering it might affect us. In this case, lowering the brain's ability to focus and compartmentalize.

"Prayers on the Wind" - Walter Jon Williams - 5 stars. As I've mentioned elsewhere, this is the best story in the collection (IMO). It revolves around a future human empire ruled by serial incarnations of the Buddha and how it responds both to its putative enemy - an alien, aggressive empire - and internal enemies of the dharma. What I like best about it is that, unlike too many stories in this collection, it doesn't rely on an alteration of human nature to make nonviolent solutions possible but on human resolve to be better.

"Burning Up" - Mark L. Van Name - 2 stars. About a man whose hands suddenly begin to burn whenever he touches anything until he helps a boy and his girlfriend out.

"The Prince" - John Shirley - 2.5-3 stars. Actually, a very prescient story (written in 1991) with collapsing ecologies and even a war in Iraq that's siphoning off American wealth! The titular "prince" is CEO of a multinational whose plane is hijacked by nonviolent protesters who simply force him to live their lives. The strength of the story is that while he does change from the experience, it's not as if he becomes a saint - he recognizes and mourns the weakness in him that prevents him from doing everything he can.

"The Mirror Planet" - Yuri Glazkov - 1.5-2 stars. Reads like a plot from The Twilight Zone. Rather primitive and not very good.

"Bugs" - James P. Blaylock - 3+ stars. A good story though it has no SF element in it at all. It's the intensely focused, personal story of a man who realizes something when he offers compassion to (successively) a roach, a spider and a june bug, and ends up reconnecting with his wife. It doesn't even have to be read as an appeal to nonviolence but in the context of the book it's obvious what the lesson is.

"The Invisible Country" - Paul J. McAuley - 2.5 stars. Not a bad story but it's another one that relies upon a fundamental alteration of human nature to bring about a change in society. Looking around I'm not sure the author is wrong but what kind of optimism for the future can one generate if our survival depends upon "terrorists" infecting us with a virus?

"Von Neumann's Second Catastrophe" - Robert Anton Wilson - 3 stars. This is the story told from the point of view of one of the hawks. In the near future, the war-fighting strategies of the world's governments have been handed over to computers (Von Neumann machines) who keep coming to the same conclusion - actual conflict is counter productive; negotiation is the preferred strategy. Very much like the movie War Games.

"Final Weapon" - Wayne Wightman - 2.5-3 stars. I like the character of Captain Vahva (we'll give him 4 stars) but it otherwise fails at some level for me. Vahva's final rebellion against The System is satisfying on a personal level but it's hard to understand how he's changed or begun a change in society at large.

"Smile" - Marian Henley - 2+ stars. A graphic tale (in the picture sense, not in the sense of sex or gore) about a woman who defuses her personal hatred. It's another example in the collection of personal decisions being the important factor in avoiding violence rather than a systemic or biological change.

"Jim and Irene" - Bruce Sterling - 3+ stars. It's Sterling so you're assured of a pretty good read. This is another story that could have showed up in any collection because there're no SF or fantasy elements and nothing that explicitly addresses the overall theme of the book. Jim and Irene (more accurately, Irina, since she's a Russian emigre) are two outcasts thrown together by circumstance who discover a way to be together without killing each other. Perhaps in that sense they are symbols (the book was written before the USSR broke up so the Russians are still the great bogey-men of Western fantasy).

"Empty Flames" - Richard Butner - 1 star. I have to confess that I still don't quite get what's going on in this story. It's a bit too esoteric and "out there" for it's own good.

"Date with Destiny" - Jack McDevitt - 3 stars. This tale reads a bit more topically than others in the collection: The dictator of a mythical Middle Eastern nation - Qurak - kidnaps an American citizen who happens to look like him (a la The Prisoner of Zenda or The Man in the Iron Mask) so that he can stand in during a crucial confrontation with US warships. Nazarian, the unfortunate, does something that confounds the US while at the same time constraining the dictator to pursue more peaceful avenues in the future. Not bad, though McDevitt's reliance on the reputed independence of Western media sounds increasingly quaint in 2010.

"War in the Ponrappe Islands" - Yoshio Aramaki - 2.5 stars. Meh...the interesting point of this story is that the aliens of the story have developed a method of conflict resolution that accommodates natural aggression without serious threat to life.

"Caruso" - Sherry Goldsmith - 2.5 stars. A near future where a thoroughly militarized US measures the worth of its boys in their aggression, and the girls in their ability to produce cannon fodder. Sitting here, writing this pocket review, I'm struck by the idea that this is another example of the great conundrum of the peace movement - how do you "fight" the war mongers without resorting to their tactics. The insurgents in this tale resort to blowing up the orbiting laser platform that holds much of the world in thrall. I'm not sure if Goldsmith deliberately wants the reader to think about this; otherwise, I might give it another star.

"In the Dark" - Pat Cadigan - 4 stars. I really enjoyed this one. It's another intensely personal story about a girl, her brother, their mother, and a violently abusive father. You don't have to believe that the girl actually has the choice to give her family's pain and suffering to another; that she decides not to and take responsibility for changing her situation makes this a powerful story and worthy of inclusion here.

"One Man's Meat" - Walton Simons - 2.5 stars. Simons' view of male-female relations is a bit too Manichaean to be really believable but the protagonist's decision not to accept the stark choice between a future, female-only world that will dissolve in violence or a breakaway colony where women are chosen/bred to live for their men raises the story to another 1/2 star.

"You Have the Tools" - Don Webb - 2.5 stars. Human violence is promoted by invisible, extradimensional things that feed off of it (a la TOS's "Day of the Dove"), and revealed when a con artist stumbles upon a voodoo recipe that "opens people's eyes" (a la the movie, "They Live").