This sardonic collection from the author of Radiance is a bracing cold-water shower for readers more familiar with the upbeat problem-solving spirit of classic science fiction. In the title story, a starship flees a deteriorating Earth for safe harbor in Alpha Centauri. Engineers on the ship awaken sporadically from their multi-decade hibernation to confront technological glitches that defy their scientific expertise. The satirical “Bad Pennies,” about an economic scam that’s designed to bring down an imaginary third-world country but proves amusingly counterproductive, makes a savvy companion piece to “The United States of Impunity,” a scathing essay that relates the California energy crisis of 2000–1 to many of America’s current economic and political problems. As Scholz reveals in the final piece, a freewheeling interview with Terry Bisson, he’s a multifaceted artist who first became interested in science fiction when he realized it was “the nearest extant thing to modernism.” This compilation will appeal to fans of thought-provoking parables.