Who is Angela Carter? She must, like Desiderio (""the desired one""), the hero of this delightful philosophico-magical phantasmagoria of a novel, have a strain of Indian blood in her -- although her publisher says she was born in Sussex, England in 1940 (and has written six very various novels and won the Somerset Maugham Award over there). But this novel reads, in the best sense, as if it has been translated from the Spanish. It is Borgesian but brisker, full of linguistic and logical games but never bogged down in them, borne along on a current of adventure; it also recalls Marquez (it takes place in a marvelous imaginary Latin American country, with its history of immigrants and slaves and its vestigial, ""esoteric"" Indians who ""speak in a kind of singing""), although it is more tongue-in-cheek, lighter in intention. And the writing is exquisite, voluptuous, elegantly playful, arrogantly metaphysical. The tale is of a city, ""solid, drab. . . masculine,"" which is utterly transformed by the mysterious assault of Dr. Hoffman, the greatest physicist ever, into a place of dreams, delusions, hallucinations indistinguishable from ""reality"" (whazzat)? Angela Carter's description of this condition is itself a vast, rippling trip more inexhaustible and satisfying than any LSD jag, but that's just the beginning. Desiderio, the only man who's immune to all this because he's bored by it, is sent by the Minister of Determination to seek out Dr. Hoffman in his castle, and his wanderings -- haunted by the image of Hoffman's metamorphous daughter Albertina -- lead him to the singing Indians, to a fantastic microcosmic erotic peep show, to the House of Anonymity, through a jungle of poisonous plants in ""nebulous time"". . .on every page a ""monstra deliciosa."" This one's a haughty beauty, a peacock's feast.