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Review: Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

In an alternate universe where every planet in the solar system is inhabitable, Severin Unck, documentary filmmaker, vanishes while filming in a mysteriously destroyed Venusian village. What follows is an amazing homage to old Hollywood and science that never was through the lens of the weird.

I adore Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. But how do I write a glowing review?

The book is amazing, the best thing I’ve read so far this year bar none.

But talking about why I like it is so damn difficult. There is no one thing that I can point to. And many of the elements of the novel may be off putting to other readers.

Catherynne M. Valente is a difficult writer. She melds science fiction and fantasy with a highly experimental literary sensibility. She does not always succeed. But when she does, the work is amazing.

The writing for Radiance is gorgeous. It is baroque and ornate and fits the social milieu of the characters like a glove.

The structure is amazingly well crafted, telling the story through textual home movies, diary entries, film scripts, radio scripts, transcripts, and the ever changing novelization of a film that will never be made. All the narratives combine to create both a powerful homage to a lunar Hollywood that never was and a complicated narrative of grief and the search for solace.

The characters are amazingly realized even as the artificiality of the movie industry transforms the characters both physically and mentally.

My words cannot do this novel enough justice. Just know that if you want to read a novel that reaches the heights science fiction can achieve when it marries literary ambition and experimentation, Radiance might just be the novel for you.

 

 

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