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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  3,024 Ratings  ·  800 Reviews
Radiance is a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood—and solar system—very different from our own, from the phenomenal talent behind the New York Times bestselling The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are stil
Hardcover, 429 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by Tor Books
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Nehemiah No. Some parts are written like letters, some like a play or movie, and some parts are more narrative (like a traditional book).

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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This was A-Fucking-Mazing.

This is what all SF aspires to be when it grows up and speaks like David Foster Wallace channeling Roger Zelazny.

I want to have this book's babies.

Do I like this? Oh my lord... do I like this??? Okay. Word of warning: don't bother reading this unless you KNOW your mythology, and I'm not just talking about the greeks. There's a boatload of Sumerian in here, as well. Each and every city is appropriate. Each and every name is square on the mark. This book is brilliant. BRI
Dan Schwent
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, 2016-books
Documentary filmmaker Severin Unck never returned from her last project on Venus. Thus begins the meta-fictional odyssey into Severin Unck's life and fate.

Radiance is the story of Severin Unck's life (and death?), told by Severin and the people who knew her in the form of articles, journal entries, scripts, and films, most notably Severin's own. I was apprehensive at first, since this sounds like a first class ticket to fancy-pants town, like a lot of books that use meta-fictional devices. Howe
KL (Cat)
Nov 22, 2014 is currently reading it

that... that is like my aesthetic explained in 7 words. [dies]

Because I am unable to resist the seductions of irony, here is a quote from Robert Downey Jr.:

This is probably going to get quoted in every publication just because I said it. And I’m not even saying anything. I’m not talking about my films, I’m not talking about my life, and I’m not talking about the world. And yet, the media will print it simply because I said it. And at this moment in time, I bet there is an artist around the corner of this hotel, on the street, with a mind far beyond ours, b
Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads-no-more
Catherynne M. Valente is at the top of my list of authors whose talent makes me positively green with envy.

Her command of the English language is . . . humbling. Her words are not only strangely beautiful, easily understood despite the complete lack of anything familiar, but they are also riddled with truths . . . sometimes painful truths . . . that are wondrously expressed:

Come in from that assault on all senses, that pummelling of rod and cone and drum and cilia.
Come in from the great spotl
Tom Merritt
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This science fiction book, which is not really a science fiction book, tells a story, which is not really a story that is part tone poem, part pulp novel, part experimental romance, and parts of many other things. In fact it's not really a book is it? Just pieces of one. And yet, I love it right in the face.
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it

A wonderful present from Lys, I literally squealed when I saw it. :*

It's close to 5 but I'm not sure how to rate it yet. Deathless is still my favourite of Valente's books and this one maybe didn't "flow" like I wanted it to. However I can't do anything but be amazed at her writing style and ideas and, most of all, knowledge of mythology. Radiance is extremely complex and full of references to mythology...I probably could re-read it all over again and find completely new elements.

The blurb d
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Watch a mini-review in my August 2017 wrap up!

Now THIS is a book that will stay with me...

Obviously, Valente's writing deserves all kinds of praise. It's lush. You just swim though her prose. I can understand her use of language being a bit too much for some people, but I ate it up like a rich meal paired with the perfect wine, topped off with a melt-in-your mouth dessert that leaves you uncomfortably full in the very best way.

This truly does not feel like other novels. It's epistolary, and that
I full on genuflect to the brilliance, imagination and gorgeous mind behind this book. It's recognizably the woman who wrote Palimpsest, but even more tender, even more full of such stuff as dreams are made on. I'll never forget this patchwork of glorious pieces.

I hope to write more soon.
The prologue is the mother of the tale and the governess of the audience. She knows you have to bring them in slow, teach them how to behave.
Catherynne M Valente doesn't have a silver tongue; she has a 24 karat gold tongue studded with stars and diamonds of every color. Her vocabulary is a menagerie of tigers and dragons; white wolves and black unicorns.

Radiance is a alt-history space opera noir set in a solar-system where every planet has been colonized by mankind. The moon is home to a si
Executive Summary: This book just wasn't for me, but then I don't like literary fiction. The parts I enjoyed were just too infrequent.

Full Review
This book wasn't on my radar at all. Ms. Valente was on the Sword & Laser podcast late last year, but I apparently forgot all about it. That should have been my first warning.

I'm a big fan of movies. I'm a pretty big fan of science-fiction. This should have been a happy marriage for me, but it wasn't. I've seen hundreds of films. I've read hundred
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
May 02, 2016 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: 2016, written-review
DNF @ 23%

Gahhhh I just can't. Again with the oodles of description and minimal action. The writing itself is gorgeous but when I get so wrapped up in the words that I get lost and don't know how to find my way back to what's going on (assuming something IS actually going on) then it's a no go, unfortunately.
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars - I think I'm going to be the odd one out on this one but it just didn't work for me. It had moments of brilliance but it just didn't come together as a cohesive whole. I love weird books and books that don't follow linear narratives and that use different ways of telling the story. This has all of that so I should have loved it but unfortunately I didn't and by the end I just didn't care.
Helene Jeppesen
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was one of a kind! I can honestly say that I've never read a novel like "Radiance" before, and I love it when I encounter those kinds of reading surprises.
"Radiance" takes place on different planets, and it follows different plots and destinies in a non-linear way. It sounds confusing, and it is! But it's amazing how Catherynne M. Valente is still able to make sense of everything and maintain a common thread throughout.
It's hard to describe what this book is about, but basically we f
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, science-fiction
Outer space is the ultimate gothic mansion. What better place to search for things that go bump in the night?

Radiance unfolds in a bygone era that never quite existed. The golden age of silent film... on the moon. Diving bells for the seas of Venus. The Ottoman empire stretching to Jupiter. These are the familiar bare bones of our solar system, clothed in the feathers and flesh of extraterrestrial fauna, and wearing a dandy top hat.

It's an image partly reminiscent of a lot of classic sci-fi (f
Thomas Wagner
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
After some days of thought, realizing I admired this a bit more than I initially thought, settled on 3.5.

Radiance is a book whose brilliance is in some ways a liability. It's impossible to deny the mastery of its craft, but if you aren't prepared for what you're getting into you can easily find yourself overwhelmed early on. It throws up so many layers of artifice that it's difficult to feel much but the most cursory emotional investment in its characters. But the way in which the book is essen
Things I know to be (sort-of) true about this book:

01. It's unlike everything I've ever read. It is quite possibly the strangest book I've ever read, but in the very best way.

02. Nothing is real and everything is real at the same time.

03. I have no idea what really happened there at the end, but I believe that that's the point. I love a messy ending, so for me, it works. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who likes their stories tied up with neat little ribbons at the end. It left me feeling a
The press release for this book describes it as “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood, and solar system, very different from our own” and if you think that sounds complicated, you have no idea.

I’m not going to lie; this is not an easy book to get into, and it’s not a light read. This is not the sort of thing you can pick up while on the edge of sleep, when your brain has started shutting down and you just want to relax.
Stories are like that. They love havoc, espe
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
very interesting novel though a little frustrating in that the story doesn't ultimately cohere and the strange, occasionally awesome universe building feels underutilized in the end; of course one can look in a different way at the novel and see the above as a feature not a bug, but at least for me this would require a different style that would captivate me mostly through the words not the story or world building as here

overall, I would say that if you are a fan of the author and love her writi
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Steampunk & alternate history are not genres I seek out. I read this one for a book challenge, and saved it for the absolute last book. So to my surprise, I liked this one. I've read four other books by this author and have enjoyed her creativity and her writing.

The fact that this story is so far out there with the alternate history part, the author did a great job at anchoring it down with the emotions. The characters were unveiled little by little, and I was constantly learning more about
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I'm in love the worlds that Valente creates in this, along with the central mysteries and characters, but ultimately felt a little let down when it came to how it all hung together. Very glad I read it, though.
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
The usual brilliance (no wait, RADIANCE!! Shhhhhhh, LET ME LIVE) that I expect from Cat Valente at this point. Thrilled to get a first look at what is her first adult novel in quite a few years (as much as I love her Fairyland books for young readers).

Alternate history, 1920s space exploration, and a space-noir mystery surrounding the missing daughter of a famous director, all written with Valente's typical flair for language. The novel is formatted through Hollywood gossip columns, movie script
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have no idea what to rate this! It made me cry at the end but wow, what a tough read. And by tough I mean I struggled to finish it. Full review to come.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, favorites
catherynne m valente did it again and by "it" i mean WRECK ME COMPLETELY

every time i read a book by her i have really high expectations but somehow her books are always BETTER than anything i couldve hoped for, larger than life, the stuff of dreams
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
A technically brilliant epistolary book with wonderful language, but nowhere to hang my hat.

This is the story of Severin Unck and her disappearance and Anchises, a mysterious boy that's the only survivor of a village on Venus in a bizarre version of our solar system which roughly matches the fictionalizations of the early 20th century. Every planet is habitable and inhabited by alien life and travel between planets is relatively easy. Severin is a film-maker, and the daughter of a renowned film-
madisson ✨
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.25 stars!

Who knew a scifi art deco space opera about an alternate Hollywood was what I needed in my life?

Catherynne M. Valente is truly a genius and officially one of my favourite writers, the creativity and detail alone in this book is truly magnificent. It was individual, lush and celestial, I can already tell that I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. I love books set in space like this and also The Sirens of Titan while books like The Martian don't interest me really at all. I think I
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fab-16
This is a sometimes glorious, sometimes chaotic, and always odd and wildly creative gambol through a solar system as it might have been imagined during the silent film era, where colonialism had gone outwards and sound never took off. It’s a wild jigsaw puzzle of a novel, and was more mentally demanding of me than I was willing to give at the time, but I can see how many people would have a lot of fun with this outrageousness.
Jun 19, 2015 marked it as to-read
I don't even know what decopunk is, but it sounds awesome.
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
So, imagine that at around the time George Melies filmed A Trip to the Moon, we actually discovered space travel. And all the planets--the moon, Venus, Neptune, Mars, etc--were habitable. And unlike A Trip to the Moon, no one lived on these planets but giant callowhales, and these whales produced milk that facilitated our ability to live on these planets, though no one knows what these callowhales are.

Okay, then imagine that silent films are considered so artistic that films are produced primari
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
What can I say about this book? I just finished it and I feel a little dizzy, drunk on words and possibilities. I don’t know what to make of it, and I don’t even really care. It served up so many questions, so many mysteries, and yet I found it entirely satisfying anyway — even though the ending still leaves a question mark.

Valente’s writing is beautiful, as ever. The mixture of media she uses — scripts, transcripts, diaries — let her really indulge in it, play with words and throw ideas around
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Catherynne M. Valente was born on Cinco de Mayo, 1979 in Seattle, WA, but grew up in in the wheatgrass paradise of Northern California. She graduated from high school at age 15, going on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, receiving her B.A. in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics. She then drifted away from her M.A. program and into a long residence in the concrete and cam ...more
More about Catherynne M. Valente

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