RA­DI­ANCE Rock­et­ship ro­mance

SFX - - Reviews -

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.

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