Somewhere in California, in the 1990s, a nuclear weapons lab develops advanced technologies for its post-Cold War mission. Advanced as in not working yet. Mission as in continued funding. A scandal-plagued missile defense program presses forward, dragging physicist Philip Quine deep into the machinations of those who would use the lab for their own gain.
The Soviet Union has collapsed. But new enemies are sought, and new reasons found to continue the work that has legitimized the power of the Lab, its mangers, and the politicians who fund them. Quine is thrust into the center of programs born at the intersection of paranoia, greed, and ambition, and torn by incommensurable demands. Deadlines slip and cost overruns mount. He is drawn into a maelstrom of policy meetings, classified documents, petty betrayals, interrupted conservations, missed meanings, unanswered voicemail, stolen data, and pornographic files. Amid all the noise and static of the late twentieth century made manifest in weapons and anti-weapons, human beings have set in motion a malign a d inhuman reality, which now is beyond their control.
More than critique of corrupt science and a permanent wartime economy, Radiance is a novel of lost ideals, broken aspirations, and human costs. In this vivid satire, relationship are just a question of who's using whom. Failure is just another word for opportunity. "Spin" is a property not of atomic particles but if the news cycle. Nature is a blur beyond the windshield, where lives are spent on the road, on the phone, on the make, in fierce competition for financial, political, and intellectual resources.
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Published February 9, 2002
Literature & Fiction.