Wolfe's previous incarnation (The Fifth Head of Cerberus, 1972) was as a sci-fi writer and since his dharma is much the same here, you will not be surprised to read that ""whatever exists can be transformed but not destroyed; but existence is not limited to bits of metal and rays of light--vistas and personalities and even memories all exist."" Thus a novel about Alden Weer from six to sixty also includes, a la Arabian Nights, upwards of a dozen histories, fables and fantasies springing from any number of premises--minor characters' pasts or the folks swapping tales for entertainment or a book or letter Alden might happen on in medias res or even a story told during his psychological testing. The ground for all this rampant invention is Alden's nostalgic boyhood, especially with aunt Olivia, and maturity as owner of a factory that makes a synthetic orange drink; but all that static interference fairly muffles the interest. This is supposed to be some sort of ingenious feat of storytelling. Outside the genre, though, there's not much harmony in its spheres.