A postmodern extravaganza narrated by a fetus: his conception on Twelfth Night begins the book and his birth on Columbus Day ends it, and in between those two events is a feast of language concerning a despoiled Mexico. In 1922, Mexico is sinking fast, and to bolster- the populace the government relies upon symbols, including a contest: the first boy born on the 12th of October, 1992 (the 500th anniversary of Columbus), will become Regent of the Nation. Angel and Angeles conceive El Nino: "I am the only one who made it to Treasure Island" (fertilization) for eventual birth into "the newly mutilated Sweet Fatherland." Thus commences a magically realistic Bildungsroman and a mythopoetic look at Mexican "lottery life," structured loosely as answers to a series of questions offered by both parents and the fetus. "This is the novel," the fetus says, "I am imagining inside my mother's egg." Long biographies of Angel (whose life is a compendium of "family witchcraft" as he "searched for a nation built to last") and of Angeles (a Platonist with a "multitrack mind") are juxtaposed to (and eventually dovetailed with) a national political plot involving, among others, the Ayatollah Matamoros and his mistress, The Last Playboy Centerfold. It's quite a balancing act, consisting of pranks, slapstick, eloquent set pieces, social satire, and Borgean games (". . .language gestates and grows with me, not one minute, not one centimeter before or after or less or more than I myself"). This "web of complications" comes to an end only with the final journey down the birth canal, when the narrator forgets everything. Fuentes, sometimes too erudite for his own good, gets it together here--developing an inventive literary conceit into a multilayered meditation on the plight of contemporary Mexico.