Banned in India before publication, this immense novel by Booker Prize-winner Rushdie ( Midnight's Children ) pits Good against Evil in a whimsical and fantastic tale. Two actors from India, "prancing" Gibreel Farishta and "buttony, pursed" Saladin Chamcha, are flying across the English Channel when the first of many implausible events occurs: the jet explodes. As the two men plummet to the earth, "like titbits of tobacco from a broken old cigar," they argue, sing and are transformed. When they are found on an English beach, the only survivors of the blast, Gibreel has sprouted a halo while Saladin has developed hooves, hairy legs and the beginnings of what seem like horns. What follows is a series of allegorical tales that challenges assumptions about both human and divine nature. Rushdie's fanciful language is as concentrated and overwhelming as a paisley pattern. Angels are demonic and demons are angelic as we are propelled through one illuminating episode after another. The narrative is somewhat burdened by self-consciousness that borders on preciosity, but for Rushdie fans this is a splendid feast.