Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Radiance

I don’t even know where to start because this book made way too little sense and was too long for how little sense it made.

If you’re a fan of pretty language and absurdist geographies and worlds (basically, if you like China Miéville), you’d probably love Catherynne M Valente’s book. As it’s got lots of ridiculous shit going on. However, if you like a coherent narrative, good pacing and some sort of resolution, then you’re going to be disappointed as fuck.

Where combinations of genres worked with Archivist Wasp and Vermilion, they just didn’t jive well with me in this combination of science fiction, film and weird alternative universes/history. It was too cartoonish but also too serious at the same time. Nothing worked well, it was all dazzling words and no substance. It was laugh in your face and then punch you in the gut. There was no getting your balance and just narratively topsy turvy the whole way through.

As well, the narrative was shit. So much was weird filler to flesh out this alternative universe where all the planets in our solar system are habitable.

You get clips of advertising, letters, diary entries, film transcripts and I guess things actually happening in a somewhat narrative arc (but those were rare). I can see how that could work, but only if you don’t get distracted by a billion things (which this book doesn’t manage).

There’s a mystery at the heart of it: what really happened to Severin Unck, the wealthy daughter of a film director, who in turn has become a director herself. There’s these whole series of subplots:

  • who is really her mother?
  • who killed Thaddeus?
  • what happened to Severin on Venus?
  • who is Anchises and what the hell happened to him and his town?

All this history and melodrama takes place and then in the end, you throw in this ridiculous excuse of how everything happened. It’s just too much to hold it all together, it frays at the seams and comes flying apart. I thought somewhere around page 300 that we were going to get somewhere, that there was going to be some sort of reason for me continue to read this book. That there would be something that ties it altogether. But I was disappointed. It just got more convoluted and unbelievable and so up its own ass. Half of the stuff that happens really doesn’t fucking matter, it makes no sense with how it ends. It just keeps going down these stupid side alleys, with the whole plot getting lost. It has a half-assed wrap up at the end, skipping huge times gaps (more like passing by at warp speed), to get to the next ridiculous set piece.

I think that’s my main criticism, it’s pretentious as fuck but I don’t think it’s got the chops to carry it off. It’s pretty but pretty vacant.

What a fucking waste of time.

2 thoughts on “Book review: Radiance

  1. Pingback: Book review: Space Opera | Blogendorff

  2. Pingback: Book review: Tell the Machine Goodnight | Blogendorff

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