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ARC Review – Radiance: A Novel by Catherynne M. Valente

23014329Title:  Radiance: A Novel

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis:  Radiance is a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own, from Catherynne M. Valente, the phenomenal talent behind the New York TimesbestsellingThe 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 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. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

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. Though her crew limps home to earth and her story is preserved by the colony’s last survivor, Severin will never return.

Told using techniques from reality TV, classic film, gossip magazines, and meta-fictional narrative, Radiance is a solar system-spanning story of love, exploration, family, loss, quantum physics, and silent film.

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Tor for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

So, Radiance is a weird, weird book. It’s not bad weird, just very out there. If people were to ask me how I described the book, I’d probably tell them it’s a confusing, yet charmingly deceptive book about film-making in space. There’s Hollywood glitz and glam and it’s all happening in the solar system. The book is alsovery old Hollywood, which is something I adored about it.

Here’s the thing, the writing in this book is stunning, and not in Valente’s usual way. It’s gritter, much more technical through the use of mixed media (such as scripts, letters, etc) and she really does this amazing job of painting space-Hollywood in a way that feels so familiar, and yet at the same time she puts enough distance between the world and the readers to remind them that not everything is as it seems on the surface. I loved that about this story, and really the writing and the world building were the parts that really kept me involved and drawn in to the overall narrative.

But if I’m being frank, I’m not sure I totally understood the story on this one. Parts of it felt slow or all over the place, and there’s this feeling of franticness that fits what is happening the story, but it makes it hard to follow. Furthermore, I wasn’t in love with these characters and I did find them memorable at all. What I was in love with was how film-making techniques were integrated in the story, the old world Hollywood elements just captured me in a way that made me want to rewatch classic films. But I wanted to connect to these characters, and struggled, hoping one of them would be someone I could connect with.

I think if you’re a hardcore Valente fan like I am, you’ll probably find something to love about this book. I do not recommend this book if this is your first time reading her work (I’d also say start with Fairyland or some of her short stories) because he writing is very unique and it’s definitely not for everyone. I think there’s a lot to enjoy about Radiance, I just found it for me personally, to be a tougher reader than some of her other works.

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ARC Review – Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

18490629Title:  Child of a Hidden Sea

Author: A.M. Dellamonica

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles. The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.

Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.

But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world . . . or is doomed to exile.

Huge thank you to Tor and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Tor and Netgalley for this ARC!

I’ve been having trouble trying to put into words why I enjoyed Child of a Hidden Sea. Timeslip novels are so difficult to do because they need to have some believability, but we all know how incredibly unrealistic they are as well. Usually what I factor is into is “do I want to timeslip back into this world again” and in the case of A.M Dellamoncia’s Stormwrack, the yes is unabashedly yes.

A.M Dellamoncia creates a strong and rich world in this novel, and one that is easy to visualize and sensationalize as well. You get a sense of how the water may smell, how the air is, how vivid towns and cities are, and she immerses the reader in all of this without much difficultly. Furthermore, she fleshes out the characters so well, as it’s easy to enjoy Sophie’s antics, or the mysteries surrounding the various deaths within Stormwrack. There’s a surprisingly number of them!

I like stories they do a great job of making the reader feel included. The only downside to this book I found was that sometimes the writing was a bit vague or confusing, and I know I had to reread bits to ensure I understood what was happening. There’s also a lot of telling in sections where I feel more showing would have benefited. The balance is not the best, but I don’t feel it makes the book so weak that it’s unreadable.

Overall, I can say that I had a lot of fun reading Child of a Hidden Sea. The mystery elements with the added layer of fantasy and magic just made for such a fun voyage. Also sailing! Politics! And Bram. Bram is a fantastic character, and easily my favourite. This is a great adventure, and if you want something that will whisk you away, check this book out when it releases.