Scholz is a longtime Berkeley science-fiction writer, and Radiance has a simple genre-fiction plot: The bad guy, Leo Highet, exploits his position as lab director to push the lucrative but unworkable Radiance missile defense system for personal gain, while good guy Philip Quine is the low-level scientist blowing the whistle. Even so, there's remarkable depth to Scholz's approach. Borrowing less from sci-fi templates than from postmodern stylists like DeLillo and Pynchon (who've always had a thing for the Bomb), Scholz crafts a propulsive, conversation-heavy narrative that packs in scientific details but rarely gets bogged down by them. Few novelists ask dialogue to do so much descriptive heavy lifting, and fewer still pull it off so well. In fast-paced, almost stream-of-consciousness language, Scholz finds a direct line to Quine's conscience, as controlling Radiance becomes increasingly slippery. In doing so, Scholz has accomplished what all great science fiction attempts: to imagine a world that's both seductive and frightening.