Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Genre: SciFi/ Alt History

Grade: A-

I’m going to quote the original Amazon blurb that first made me say, “What the hell?”

 “Radiance is a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own, from Catherynne M. Valente, the phenomenal talent behind the New York Times bestselling The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.”

Yep, there’s a lot going on in this book. So I’m going to try to be far less wordy. Basically Severin Unck, renowned film maker and daughter of famous director and inter-galactic Playboy Percy (who shoots Gothic romances on the moon) goes missing while investigating the mystery of Adonis. A small-town on the callowhaling world of Venus that has also disappeared off the face of the, well, Venus leaving behind nothing but a small boy with a damaged hand who seems stuck in a time loop.

This book really tells the whole story of her life as well as the people around her, father, multiple stepmothers, and lover. It jumps through time and POV’s and is told through official interviews, recordings, radio broadcasts and (in some cases confusingly) the story of Percy trying to finish the movie of his daughters life and finding it quite difficult.

I’m going to be honest. I found it a little frustrating at times because the mystery of Severin’s disappearance was a pretty good one. All the stuff on Adonis is top-notch. Valente is a great writer overall but I found her setting the scenes here really first class. I was creeped out. I was frightened. I wanted to know more but you’d be there and then you’d be jumping around to the moon, to Pluto, to a thousand different places. All really thought out but taking you away from the heart of the mystery.

Further more you had Percy’s movie about Severin which kept being changed until you had to question which parts were real and which parts were his writing her ending for her.

Strangely I had faith throughout the novel that Valente would be able to pull it all together and she does, in a way. But it’s the end that leaves me kind of torn. I can’t say that I loved it or was completely pleased with it but I can say that I’m still thinking about it. The deeper meanings and the overall beauty of this story that is this crazy and unimaginable universe told through the lens of movie making and Hollywood somehow is so familiar to still make sense.

I think a person can come at this book from so many different angles and take so many different things from it that it would be hard not to appreciate it.

What is the real story? What is the truth versus the movie? The importance of love. The heart of the universe. A father’s love for his daughter. A daughter’s need to break away from it. Each individuals place in the universe. Humanity’s place in the universe. Why did they wind up making movies on the moon?

Recommend: Yes.  If the blurb interests you it’s worth a read. I’m still thinking about it several days later and yes, I think it would be an amazing movie!

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