By Marc Bernardin
Updated March 28, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

In The Forgery of Venus, Charles P. Wilmot Jr., a frustrated artist with two ex-wives and a mountain of bills, suddenly wakes in a fabulous-but-strange place with his problems mysteriously erased. Is someone playing a trick on him, or is the experimental creativity-enhancing drug he’s been taking actually altering the waking world? Unfortunately, Chaz is such a self-obsessed blowhard you just don’t care. Michael Gruber spends so much time dropping the names of painters and Italian techniques in a run of art-geek technobabble that he buries his terrific conceit — a drug that makes Chaz think he’s reliving the life of Diego Veláuez. C+