The hero of Rushdie’s relentlessly topical eighth novel, Professor Malik ”Solly” Solanka, is 55 years old. Born in Bombay, schooled at Cambridge, having grown rich as the creator of a doll that explores the philosophy of history on TV, he has soured on his wife, and, at the edge of murderous rage, hopped off to New York City. For all the learned riffs the city inspires — about empire and Gatsby and Lewinsky, some of them witty truths, some of them fancy banalities — Rushdie’s perspective on Manhattan scarcely varies from that of a horny Columbia freshman: His central theme is hot chicks. Solly gets entangled with a pair of cartoon knockouts, one a punkish minx who’s the incarnation of his world-famous doll; the other, intoxicating as a lotus, a literal traffic-stopper. The sloppy plot concerns the serial killing of leggy socialites. Watch out, Bret Easton Ellis! There’s a new sheriff in town.