History and the dream interpenetrate in this outsized novel which summons into fevered, hallucinatory existence the Spain that conquered the author's native Mexico. It is like a movie by Bunuel unreeling marvels, cruelties, compulsions--a Buneul, who had been given unlimited funds by some mad mogul. Fuentes' labyrinth starts in Paris in 1999, when the Seine is boiling, the Louvre has turned to crystal and the Eiffel Tower to sand. Flagellants parade the streets. On a bridge a man meets a woman with tattooed lips; he falls into the river; the story shifts back to Spain on the eve of the New World's discovery, it is a Spain of blood, torture, religious and sexual obsessions, ruled by El Senor, who hates life (God's greatest sin was the creation of man) and has immured himself in a necropolis. His mother consorts with the cadaver of her husband. Three bastard sons of El Senor's father by different mothers appear and reappear: they are identical, down to their six-toed feet and the red crosses that stain their backs. One is a pilgrim who ventures to the Mexico of human sacrifice, as cruel as Mother Spain. The second is Don Juan, mistaken by nuns for their husband, Christ. The third is an idiot wedded to a flatulent dwarf. A peasant girl, Celestina, reappears as a witch and then as a procuress. Suddenly the scene shifts to the future: Mexico under bombardment by North American Phantoms; then full circle back to a dying Paris. At the end the narrator has an interesting form of sexual intercourse with himself, spawning future generations. History is circular and the past, present and future happen simultaneously. The fusion of myth and reality that occupied Fuentes in A Change of Skin (1967) is carried to obsessive length. Brilliant passages and exciting adventures occur among arid wastes of metaphysical speculation. The prose is incantatory but ultimately exhausting.