Planet Earth was not a pleasant place to live. The Kremlin and the conglomerates were tightening their grip. The Individualist People's Party was allowing every individual to be exactly like every other individual. Then Saul Gilpin discovered a new kind of space and disappeared into it with a stolen submarine. From the gray malevolence of Earth, he had broken through an incredible gateway: To the far, wondrous reaches of the universe - and the one last chance for humankind to forge a new beginning.
Outwardly, Papa Schimmelhorn is an elderly cuckoo clock assembler with overactive hormones. But beneath the lecherous facade lurks a powerful subconscious. Having solved the problems of time travel, black holes, and alternate universes, he looks forward with unbounded glee to the simple problem of converting lead into the world's most precious commodity - gold! But then he meets Gaspar Gansfleisch, the finest (and vilest) alchemist in Europe.
He has the mind of a child, the sexual proclivities of a teenager - and the subconscious of a scientific genius. And despite the best efforts of Mama Schimmelhorn to get her old man to make Swiss cuckoo clocks by day and stay home by night, Papa's inventions will keep coming.