In Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente crafts a lush, detailed alternate history of Hollywood and a complex re-imagining of our solar system . . . and that’s just the beginning. Against that landscape, full of secrets, scandals and sci-fi awe, Valente weaves a tale of fathers and daughters, stories and truths, love and loss that is as much about the act of telling a story as it is about its characters.
Severin Unck is the daughter of a legendary, passionate Hollywood filmmaker, but she rejects his lush, romantic fictions and becomes a documentarian. With her lover and her crew, Severin travels the human-colonized solar system, chronicling life on other planets—until she disappears during a shoot on Venus.
From there, the story branches out to include Severin’s father, her various surrogate mothers, her lover and a mysterious child who survived that final expedition. To add even greater depth, Valente opts to tell the story not through traditional prose, but through transcripts, diary entries, old gossip columns, remembrances and letters.
It is striking that Valente—who is the author of several previous fantasy novels for adults and teens—managed to throw this many storytelling devices, themes and world-building quirks into a single novel and somehow make them all work, but what’s even more striking is how warm and human Radiance is. It feels cohesive and unified in its vision: the story of what a single life can mean.
RELATED CONTENT: Read our Q&A with Catherynne M. Valente.