Dan Schwent's Reviews > Radiance

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
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really liked it
bookshelves: 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. However, Catherynne Valente can get into my fancy pants any day.

Told in a non-linear fashion, Radiance tells the story of Severin Unck through interviews and films of the people who knew her, from her father, Percival Unck and his seven ex-wives, to Erasmo St. John, her last lover, to Anchises St. John, the little boy who was the only survivor of the Adonis colony on Venus. Unlike a lot of literature that uses meta-fiction to tell the tale, the techniques are actually relevant to the story.

The setting is an enjoyable one, one where space travel was mastered decades earlier and every planet and moon in the solar system is habitable. Colonization is depended on monstrous Venusian beasts called callowwhales. Because of the tyranny of the Edisons, everyone is still making silent movies, making for a very unique setting indeed.

There's not a whole lot more I want to say about the plot. Catherynne Valente shows her writing chops in this outing, going from sf to screenplay to soap opera to noir, and all points beyond, without missing a beat. I'd read a library of Madame Mortimer mysteries.

4.5 out of 5 stars. This one is not to be missed.
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Reading Progress

October 20, 2015 – Shelved
October 20, 2015 – Shelved as: buy-this-for-me
March 25, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
March 28, 2016 – Started Reading
March 28, 2016 –
page 60
13.89%
March 29, 2016 –
page 75
17.36%
March 30, 2016 –
page 98
22.69%
March 30, 2016 –
page 104
24.07%
March 31, 2016 –
page 110
25.46% "I could really use more time to read this."
April 1, 2016 –
page 165
38.19%
April 2, 2016 –
page 200
46.3%
April 3, 2016 –
page 300
69.44%
April 4, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016
April 4, 2016 – Finished Reading
July 15, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016-books

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Katie (new) - added it

Katie I love Catherynne Valente soooo much. One of my favorite authors by far.


message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Katie wrote: "I love Catherynne Valente soooo much. One of my favorite authors by far."

How is Speakeasy?


message 3: by Terry (new)

Terry C'mon Dan, we all know you'll let anyone into your fancy pants!

Still...nice review :)

She gets such glowing praise I guess I gotta try Valente one of these days.


message 4: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Thanks, Terry. I'll be reading more Valente at some point.


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