Adult Fiction · Book Review · Science Fiction

Radiance

RbyCMVI have been wanting this book since I heard about it. The blurb describes is as “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood—and solar system.” Yes, yes, yes. Director Severin Unck, daughter of the famous director Percival Unck, never returns from shooting her last documentary about a colony on Venus that mysteriously vanished. Severin is a realist while her father enjoys making movies about the fantastic. Her search for the truth might have led to her death… but is she truly dead?

The world in this novel is so amazing. Though much of technology and culture is stuck in the early to mid 1900’s with silent black and white movies, nickelodeons, flappers, radio dramas, and the glitz of early Hollywood… space travel is common place. In this alternate reality the planets in our solar system are habitable and teeming with native flora and fauna. The creativity, descriptions, and storytelling bring this vibrant world to life. The world was great, but I want more of it.

The way the novel is written is through film scripts, audio logs, and radio commercials. In the beginning I found this a little confusing since there are jumps back and forth through time as well as some scripts being fictional while others are nonfictional. Though this is an interesting way to present the story I feel like I could have gotten more out of it if it were just written like a regular novel. The descriptions are sometimes [bracketed] and separate which feels very… disconnected. I’m really torn on the presentation of the narrative. On one hand it is very neat to imagine parts being on old film with skipping, distortions, and played on old projectors. It adds a meta-atmosphere for sure, but I also feel like I am missing out on the actual world (with its fashionable and necessary Plutonian masks and the extremely useful “whales” from Venus) in which everything takes place.

Still, it was an absolute joy to read. If I went back and reread it (and I do want to) I know I would understand the subtleties and time jumps much more. This is another novel I wish I had a book club to comb through it with. There is so much depth. The plot loops around itself, makes you question truth and reality, and the underlying commentary blows my mind. It ends like a good movie- not every question is answered in full, but it just makes you hunger for more.

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