This amazingly inventive fiction is--as all the world knows--its Indian-born author's first adult novel since Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini put a price on Rushdie's head in 1990 for the "offense" against Islam perceived in The Satanic Verses (1989). And, by the time you read this, it will almost certainly have won Britain's 1995 Booker Prize. It's the story of a deliriously mixed and conflicted, helplessly self-destructive family, the da Gama-Zogoiby clan of Cochin in South India, and later Bombay, whose herculean appetites and Machiavellian dealings mockingly embody the history of 20th-century India. That story is told by Moraes (a.k.a. "the Moor"), fourth child and only son of wealthy businessman and reputed crime boss Abraham Zogoiby (a Cochin Jew) and celebrated painter Aurora da Gama (a Portuguese Catholic), heiress to her family's spice fortune and a prominent figure in the Indian independence movement. "Moor," a veritable Scheherazade, records the tangled history of his multiform family--including, among other bizarre persons and events, his great-grandfather's philosophical mysticism, his maternal grandfather's "comic-opera efforts at importing the Soviet Revolution" to Cochin, and his homosexual great-uncle's misadventures as a transvestite--during what seem his last days: for Moor was born afflicted, not just with a deformed right hand, but also with a unique condition causing him to age at twice the normal rate (i.e., at 36, he's physically a 72-year-old); furthermore, he's being held hostage by his mother's rejected lover, an inferior artist who means to obliterate the aesthetic gap between them. That's the real point of this Rabelaisian extravaganza: That distinctions--between Catholic and Jew, Muslim and Hindu, even human and animal--are what set us at one another's throats and threaten to undo us. For sheer headlong inexhaustible inventive force and fury, there's been nothing like this in English since Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow in 1973. It's Nobel Prize time.