RADIANCE Rocketship romance
Some writers aren’t interested in the easy route. Catherynne M Valente may have gained big success via her Fairyland series of children’s books, but her adult fiction has always been ornate, weird and seriously demanding. Her latest effort is no exception, and is likely to be one of 2016’ s most distinctive genre novels – even if that distinctiveness isn’t always an advantage.
Radiance is set in a retrofuturistic remix of the classic era of Hollywood, a pulp SF- influenced version of the early 20th century where the solar system has been colonised, and movie stars glide between the planets on Art Deco rocketships. The story follows the disappearance of famed documentary filmmaker Severin Unck, and explores her life and loves through a variety of sources, including archive film clips, interview transcripts and magazine articles.
The whole book is presented in this “found footage” style – although the effect ends up both bewildering and exhausting. Among all the metafictional game- playing, Valente has crafted beautiful imagery and packed every page with breathtaking invention, but Radiance’s fragmented narrative ultimately leaves it easier to admire than to enjoy. Saxon Bullock
One of Valente’s influences for the central character was Drew Barrymore, as the daughter of a Hollywood family.