THE HISTORY OF LUMINOUS MOTION By Scott Bradfield (Vintage: $8.95)

This dark, even loathsome novel is redeemed only by its sheer improbability, which prevents the reader from experiencing the necessary suspension of disbelief. The narrator is Phillip Davis, an absurdly precocious 8-year-old who argues existential philosophy with his friends, engineers a string of burglaries (and invests the profits), kills one man and attempts to murder his father. The improbable supporting characters include Rodney, an elementary-school student who sports an array of heavy-metal tattoos; Beatrice, an intellectual nymphet, and Phillip's mother, who commits any number of felonies without getting caught. As "Luminous Motion" fumbles to a close, Phillip leaves a psychiatric hospital, trying to understand what's happened to him, and the reader tries to understand why he's wasted two hours with this dreary tome.

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