A coming-of-age debut, set largely in Bogot†, and winner of the Black Heron Press Award for Social Fiction, by a scholar and academic whose specialty is the philosophy of science. Oscar Moreira, nearly 14, is a brilliant lad, the top student and master of his fate at his Catholic boarding school, but bit by bit he falls to pieces. The opening chapters show him and his younger brother, Homero, at school and the social effects of masturbation upon his fellow classmates, who are under the moral thumb of authoritarian Spanish priests. When Oscar’s father’s petrochemical company goes bankrupt, the family must move from beautiful Cartagena on the Caribbean coast to a small house in a hateful neighborhood in —damned— Bogot†, where people speak in a —grimy— accent. Oscar enjoys baiting his mentors about God, his atheism keeping pace with his fading grades. He gets frisky with the girls and pursues his passion for soccer. With no money coming in, the family descends from the gentry into the middle class—Father sells the new station wagon and buys a cheap Chevrolet, while Mother pawns the silver tea service to put food on the table. And now Oscar lusts for his sister, Dora. The story, such as it is, covers four years as the Moreiras— fortunes wear thinner and thinner, and Oscar’s studies go downhill, in part because his father won—t buy him the necessary texts. Oscar’s reading of science fiction, though, has led him into the study of physics, despite being bookless. It gives nothing away to tell that at last his father dies, Oscar flunks out entirely, and goes back to Cartagena . . . in the rain. Decently written but more of a memoir than a novel, with the general mental chaos of adolescence more strongly drawn than any suspense. There will, no doubt, be follow-ups.