An uneven first collection from gifted fantasist Wolfe (The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Peace): 18 pieces linked to different holidays. Standouts are the superb ""How I Lost the Second World War,"" a witty and complex entertainment in which a wily Churchill turns back a German commercial invasion spearheaded by Hitler as sales director of Volkswagen; and the telling ""Beautyland,"" where citizens eagerly pay for the privilege of destroying the last tract of unspoiled countryside. Also charming: the nursery-land-ish ""The War Beneath the Tree"" (robot toys battle their Christmas replacements); and ""Many Mansions"" (alien ambulatory houses). Other stories here, however, offer more pedestrian ironies and more routine gags: on computer matchmaking, boys who never grow up (c.f. Harlan Ellison), war games, etc. And Wolfe's experiments with non-narrative--especially the long, wilfully unintelligible ""Forlesen""--are ultimately passionless and ponderous. Lots of special effects, then--a good deal of abstruse cleverness, rococo prose, and obfuscation--but only in his most gentle and fanciful moments does Wolfe rise above self-conscious wordplay and pretentious theme-weaving.