The first novella, We, the Women, is just incredibly, incredibly, bad. I know Norton wasn't really involved in the Witch World, The Turning series, but I cannot imagine how she could permit her name to be attached to this.
We have a village of Falconer women, at the time of the Turning, caring for a group of exiles (presumably from Karsten, except that that appears to be geographically impossible) and finding themselves completely incapable of understanding the gender dynamics of a patriarchal society. Nevermind that the women of the Falconer race live apart from the men, filling all the roles — except as warriors — that men in the surrounding societies would take: Falconer women must, of necessity, understand that men are not just "he-women" because they know (if only from their worst excesses) Falconer men. It's simply not at all believable.
As well, apparently the Falconer women have had secret villages as long as the Falconers have lived on the Estcarp border, so that the Falconer men only ever see the women in Potemkin villages. Does a herder not know when 90% of his herd is missing? Everything we've been told of Falconers, in previous Witch World stories, suggests that however despicable some (possibly even most) Falconers may be, they're not stupid — they treat their women as chattel, even routinely referring to them as "mares", and it is inconceivable that they're only seeing a small number of the women.
Then a group of Estcarp Borderers finds the Potemkin village after the Turning, offering to help rebuild it. One of the Borderer troop wonders what has happened to destroy the village so thoroughly, and only belatedly realizes "Oh. The Turning." Duh? [He was, in fact, wrong, but in a cataclysm that could raise new mountain ranges, how did he expect buildings to survive?]
The one glimmer of light in the story is the clear depiction of the Goddess Jonkara as the protector of women — where the Falconer men believe she was the Dark One who almost destroyed their race. Unfortunately, at no time is this resolved. Even in the Afterword (which I think was written by Norton), we're given just one more tiny clue, and left hanging.
Awful, awful, offal!
The second story, Falcon Magic, is much better, but still suffers from a great many errors of continuity and lack of attention (e.g., at one point somebody escaping back to Alizon, when they're actually escaping from Alizon, trying to reach Estcarp; in another case a child is riding in front of one adult - and a paragraph later in front of another, without any suggestion that they'd stopped and exchanged; in both stories, the author's would seem to have benefited from ready access to maps of Estcarp and/or Alizon).
Two stars for Falcon Magic for at least being readable, <1 star for We, The Women.
If there's a common thread in this collection of short stories, it's "what makes me, me?"
From the opening story, in which a man travels the multiplicity of parallel universes, assassinating the people who cause breaches between them; to a pair of tales involving the use of neural implants to change what a person believes; to the stories about the Ndoli Jewel: a device that everybody has implanted in their skulls at birth, that learns everything they do, and is eventually used to replace the brain; most of the stories say "I think, therefore I am" is not enough. It is "I think, therefore I am me!"
In The Infinite Assassin, the protagonist knows that there are an infinite number of other copies of him in other parallel universes, and comforts himself with the thought that those that are "me" are the ones who succeed in their mission. But what would it mean if he fails?
In Learning to be Me, children taunt each other "are you the jewel, or are you human?" Of course, there's no way to know.
In the title story, a man with moral qualms about killing wants revenge against the man who murdered his wife. So he gets a neural implant that makes him not care about the sanctity of life... Would he be guilty of the act of revenge?
Most of these scenarios have been written before but, of course, Egan gives them a twist you won't see coming. Unlike most of his novels, except for the very first story in the collection, the science isn't particularly hard.