Carter Scholz lives in Berkeley, California.
Set in an intrepid nuclear weapons research and testing station in the middle of the desert, complete with protest banners and swinging police truncheons, this wannabe political satire treads all too familiar ground, despite the talented Scholz's inventive, high-energy prose. Leo Highet, director of the lab, derides his colleagues and hopes to build an incredibly powerful weapon, dubbed Radiance. Working under him is x-ray expert Philip Quine, harassed by public outcry and political backbiting on all sides, his sense of inconsequence so massive he can neither produce adequate research nor think critically about the dubious work he is doing. In the parking lot outside the facility, he meets a protester and falls in love with her; at home, he fights with his girlfriend, who is cheating on him. Meanwhile, defense spending rolls ahead, but the development of Radiance is unaccountably stalled. What is fascinating here is Scholz's stylistic knack for creating a clipped system-speak, derived from the blips and burps of conversation. Relations between characters are cold and unfulfilling, and character development is registered only by the protagonists' sudden shifts in situation: without much ado, they are hired and fired or start affairs and end them. Scholz's writing crackles with energy, intelligence and dark humor, but readers will recognize tones and topics heavily based on Pynchon, DeLillo et al., and wish Scholz had struck out a little farther on his own. (Feb.) Forecast: A strong endorsement from Jonathan Lethem should attract a cultish audience to this promising if unsatisfying debut. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Ingenious...Scholz's extraordinary language--his ear for befuddled dialogue and scientific obfuscation, his resonant, haunted landscapes--cracks the book open and allows its light to blaze forth." --Salon.com "Radiance is a tour-de-force of obsessive, microscopic realism and a vibrantly satirical phantasmagoria at once. It gives a terrifying glimpse of a war at the juncture of science and politics, one never fully fought or abandoned, only covered in denial and fatigue. It reads like a de-classified document of the human soul." --Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn
A composer and sf writer best known for Kafka Americana, a collaboration with Jonathan Lethem, Scholz has written a remarkably accomplished first novel filled with eerily convincing insider information about the politics of nuclear weapons research. It is the mid-1990s, and the press has just learned that a recent demonstration of a missile interception system was rigged. Leo Highet, the Machiavellian director of a California defense lab, is forced from his position and replaced by his rival Philip Quine, a closet peacenik. Highet used the popular Star Wars project as a cover for the continued development of nuclear weapons, in direct violation of international treaties, while at the same time enriching himself with lucrative private-sector spin-off deals. Quine vows to be more honest, but he quickly learns that the director's primary function is to guarantee ongoing weapons research by any means necessary. Scholz's frenetic prose style is modeled on the William Gaddis classic, JR (1975). The text is an aural mosaic that mixes fragments of overheard conversation with background noise from televisions, car radios, and answering machines. Despite some sketchy character development, Radiance is one of the best novels about Big Science in recent memory. Recommended for larger fiction collections and libraries with a strong interest in science and technology. Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.