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Radiance

3/5. An indescribably complicated and wonderfully weird palimpsest novel. In an alt history twentieth-century where the pulp scifi vision of the solar system as entirely habitable by humans is true, a documentarian has gone missing while filming on site of a vanished village on Venus. The backbone of the book is the movie her famous director father makes, and scraps, and remakes, and scraps, and remakes about her disappearance, each iteration in a different genre mode. On that skeleton are hung nonlinear fragments of script from both their movies, transcripts of their family movies, letters, diaries, etc. etc. It's about space whales and metaphors and layered stories, and it is great.

And I am a crank who has a hard time getting into this sort of metafiction, so I can appreciate that it's brilliant but also not feel it, you know? It is brilliant, though, and the more I think about it the more convinced of it I am. Some of you guys are going to go bananas over this. If a book that can reasonably be described as "decopunk" appeals to you, you probably know who you are.

Unrelated note: Thus endeth the 2016 reading. As mentioned before, I am going to spend 2017 reading only authors I have not read before. I am excited!
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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, and The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home

4/5. The story of September, who climbs out her kitchen window and rides the wind to fairyland, then comes home, and goes back, and comes home, and goes back, and gets stuck.

So I generally do not do well with books that get popularly described as "lush." E.g., I recently twice failed out of Sofia Samatar's first book because oh god, the boredom. Lush and me, it's not so good. And it seems like everyone calls Valente's work "lush." So I've avoided it for over a decade.

But these books? These books are wonderful. Intricate and dense; full of appropriately fairyland whimsy that has a lot of weight behind it. As if the ever-proliferating fairyland rules are each the ingredient to a magic spell of byzantine complexity, and it will only make sense if you twist your brain around 270 degrees and stand on one foot and think about it in the moonlight. But in a good way!

I've already talked about these books a bit by way of disliking Seanan McGuire, who was doing some of the same stuff but not nearly so well. But I want to say, more directly, that this series is principally about being a child out of place and subject to inexplicable forces – a child displaced to fairy, or a troll displaced to Chicago. It matters, very much, that this book is set in the 1940's when our heroine's mother, like the other women of her generation, is going to work for perhaps the first time. It matters that September knows she should not eat in fairyland, but manages to complicate and muddle the rule beyond recognition. It matters that the displaced troll becomes a hero among his schoolyard peers for discerning the rules of their world and writing them down. "All children are changelings," this series says near the end, encapsulating five books into one thematic statement. Yes. That.

These are beautiful and wonderful and wise and sad and weird and I really love them. And fine, they're fucking "lush" okay.

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