Severin Unck's father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father's films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space, and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. But her latest film, which investigates the disappearance of a diving colony on a watery Venus populated by island-sized alien creatures, will be her last. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.
©2015 Catherynne M. Valente (P)2015 Dreamscape Media, LLC
I bought this audiobook because I'd listened to an interview with the author in which she mentioned that this book had space whales and, well, I'm not about to pass that up.
The book was weirder than I'd expected, theatrical in tone and post modern in theme, the story is told through transcripts and radio announcements, interviews and gossip columns. It constantly and consciously shifts in tone, from a noir detective story to gothic horror and more, as characters argue over what, exactly, the story is. All of this makes sense of course, since they're all movie folks and a woman has disappeared without a trace.
All of this can make the audiobook hard to follow at times, but the narrator is really good, with a fittingly theatrical, smooth voice and, when he switches up tone to suit a genre, there's an entirely new level of humor that I don't think you'd get from reading the book.
So, recommended! Just focus on the space whales and you should be fine!
I'm going to have to give this review in three parts because, whatever else this book is, it is full of extremes.
The first thing I will mention is the writing. The author does a great, one might even say beautifully lush job, of describing the world and sensations the characters experience in it. The language is a delight to the senses and a clever joy to the mind.
The second part is the narrator. I'm not sure how, but they managed to find the perfect narrator for this one. I believe he could read recipes from a cookbook and make them sound intensely interesting. Pairing this narrator with a narrative that is so gorgeously sensual is a master stroke.
The third part is the story, which is separate from the writing. Unlike the writing, which dances through your mind with an almost hypnotic grace, the story was ripped into shreds and scattered about in order to hide its flaws. Let's disguise fiction as reality, throw in some opium generated sequences, combine them with a huge helping of Dues ex Machina and see if we can misdirect the readers attention away from the fact that the core story was likely written by a child on a sugar high. It isn't simply the fact it lacks any attempt at cohesion or even the fact it actively changes the story as you listen, yet one cannot ignore that even the author in attempt to finally come up with an ending that, in some vague fashion, has a prayer of making sense, throws up her hands and literally has cartoon characters explain things to the reader. The explanation is simplistic and made as if to children, which is about complexity of the entire drug induced hallucination.
At the end if the day I would say if you delight in language and the complex joys one can derive from it, then get this one. If, however, you want a story worthy of your time steer well clear of this one. There are better fish in the Venusian sea.
This is a great read for someone who likes story and characters.
This book blends the air and feel of early Hollywood with an expansive take on science fiction.
I really enjoyed this book through and through. The only negative thing might be that I found it a bit difficult to follow as an audiobook because of a lot of listing that happens quite frequently throughout the entire book. However, the story is enchanting, imaginative and inspiring, and quite frankly very original in my personal opinion. It left me mind blown and I will definitely recommend it to anyone that might be interested in stories featuring alternative history, fantasy and picturesque description. I am already wanting to hear it again!
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Set in a parallel universe, Radiance is a mid century decopunk pulp science fiction novella. The solar system or Radiance is much different to ours, and it has reminiscences of the first years of science fiction cinema. I could not help but think about Melies and his conception of the Moon. Nevertheless the Moon in Radiance is the equivalent of Hollywood, where movies are made, where dreams are born. At the end of the 1800s the man has reached the starts, and thanks to the callowmilk, living and striving on other planets is possible. There are many creatures and things populating Valente's worlds, and they have names of things from Earth because they remind us of them, not because they are equivalent or similar. The callowmilk is produced by mysterious creatures called callowhales which live in Venus. Don't subestimate the callowwhales, because their role will be crucial in this book. The story revolves around the several interpretations and guesses about Severin Unck's disappearance. Daughter of one of the great film makers on the Moon, she decided to escape the manipulation of reality and went into docudrama. When going with her team to Venus, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the town of Adonis, where just a lonely child remained, she herself disappeared too, and several members of her crew resulted dead.
In order to cope with her lose and try to find out what happened to her, Percival Unck, her father, tries to write a script for a film about her life. The book is just a collection of scripts, in several levels of evolution, reels, dialogs, and tapes. This is one of the things that makes this book difficult to follow. All the time I had the impression that I had arrived to a room where two people were in mid conversation. The world was not properly introduced, same for the characters. I was confused by some of them, and they never gained the proper depth to make me care for them. A story is made of shape and a plot. The shape here was a beautiful and artificious prose, but the plot was quite simple. The problem was in how it was delivered, making it confusing on purpose and at times I was not sure if I was listening at what really happened or a fictionalization made by Percival. The same scene could be watched twice, from different points of view, but also incongruent. Lies and more lies, and watching thorough a lens.
This book is not for ones light of heart, nor for the ones who want an easy read. Some people think that audio is not a valid medium for this book due to its confusing nature and the use of several sources, but as this book is quite demanding, I am not sure if I could have been able to actually read it (and be able to go on with my life).
Nevertheless I loved the prose, and although nobody is supposed to talk like the characters in this book, listening to them was a real pleasure, and only for it, this book is something special. Catherynne Valente is a magician with words, but I cannot help feeling that she would need to focus more on the story to make it more compelling to the reader. It feels like she wrote with her brain but not with her heart, even though there is an inherent sadness to the story.
And there is a trick. At the beginning we are told that there are no endings, just beginnings, and it is a bit how I felt after finishing the book. I spent hours carefully listening (you do need to listen carefully to this one to avoid missing any detail) to find out what happened to Severin, and we are never plainly told. The end of the book is a theatrical conversation between the characters in the book, and things cannot get more surreal. We get a partial answer, kind of 'you decide what it is'.
Something that I also felt tricked about was with the fact that there is a lot more magic than science fiction in this book, at least if we know all that we know nowadays. It could have been a wonderful film of the Golden Era, and I think it is what it means to be. I loved some of the stories, I just hoped they were better tied in together.
Heath Miller could not have been more perfect. I think of this book being narrated by somebody with a plainer voice and I think I would have failed at it, but Miller got in the soul of each of the characters and I was almost able to see the reels about callowmilk. Miller has demonstrated to being able to adapt like a chameleon.
This review may seem a bit chaotic and disjointed, but after listening to this book, this is how ideas are coming to my head. If you want to enjoy a book just by the mere pleasure of reading (or listening), this could be for you. Just do not expect that everything will make sense in the end and you will be fine.
Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.
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Not a mere read, but a stellar aural performance of a stunningly well written epic of imagination and solar system building. Such great fun, too!
I started with the book, moved to the audio file, I still don't understand what is going on. The synopsis is very misleading. What the eff is this?
The first audio book I couldn't finish. It might have something to do with how I listened, but I couldn't keep track of anything. This may work better in print form. There was a story and world/universe I would like to explore but is probably going to have to be in a different medium.
The writing style of the book seemed promising and it was a little offbeat, which I like. However, the plot, if you can figure t out, is rambling and the book doesn't seem to go anywhere. I finally gave up on it about two thirds of the way through.
"Loved the story, hated the voice actor"
Maybe the guy is nice in real life, but he sounded so pretentious and monotonous. Honestly you'd be better off reading the beautiful book yourself then listening to this one.
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