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Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  1,532 ratings  ·  300 reviews
Come inside and take a seat; the show is about to begin...

Outside any city still standing, the Mechanical Circus Tresaulti sets up its tents. Crowds pack the benches to gawk at the brass-and-copper troupe and their impossible feats: Ayar the Strong Man, the acrobatic Grimaldi Brothers, fearless Elena and her aerialists who perform on living trapezes. War is everywhere, bu
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Paperback, 284 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Prime Books (first published April 23rd 2011)
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Soulless by Gail CarrigerLeviathan by Scott WesterfeldBoneshaker by Cherie PriestPerdido Street Station by China MiévilleThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Best Steampunk Books
93rd out of 695 books — 3,297 voters
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Circus/Carnival Books
13th out of 252 books — 575 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Elizabeth
This is a fucking phenomenal prose poem. I know, it's billed as a novel, but trust me on this: it's a prose poem. The writing is just gorgeous. As soon as I finished, I started all over again, just so I could wallow in the language and recognize the things which resonated on the second reading and hadn't on the first. The last novel that impressed me this much was Nicola Griffith's Slow River, and this is frankly better than Griffth's debut, Ammonite, which is an impressive debut in its own righ ...more
Lea


I can't write. My artistic gifts are in other areas, and usually I'm okay with that. But every now and again I'll read a book that makes me grind my teeth in frustration -- why oh why oh WHY can't I write like this?!

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti is exactly that kind of book.

If I COULD write, I could explain how elegant the writing is, how the author weaves together various stories and viewpoints to gradually build the tale of the Circus Tresaulti, never coming right out and sayin
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Paul
Shortish and weird version: I love this book. If I were a tattoo person (by which I mean a person who gets tattoos, not a literal tattoo person, imprisoned in someone else’s skin), I’d want this book tattooed on my body, but a 3D style tattoo, which would look weird (and would probably look like a growth or a goiter), I know, but I can’t help how I feel!

Longer version: This book is another lesson in there being no absolutes in “things I don’t like” statements, at least when it comes to art. A le
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Nerine Dorman
Sometimes stories exist that hit all of my buttons at the same time, and Mechanique is one of those rare finds for 2012 that really succeeded in keeping me glued to my ereader. Where do I start? Perhaps with my love for travellers. I watched both seasons of Carnivale a few years ago and that really captured my imagination. The concept of a group of misfits journeying together who somehow succeed in being a family. Then of course, Genevieve Valentine plays with a concept that is near and dear to ...more
Rebecca
This is written like my dreams.

I honestly cannot say whether this novel will resonate for others the way it did for me. The story is exceedingly nonlinear, the narration bounces from first person to second to third close to third omniscent between chapters. There are parts that do not quite make sense on a logical plane when examined closely, mysteries that are never explained or even justified. Many of the characters are not particularly likeable people.

But the writing aches.

I dream in deeply
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Meaghan
So it turns out there were two steampunky books about circuses released in 2011, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and this one. They begin similarly, with descriptions of how outsiders first approach the circus, and from there on the comparison is probably inevitable. The world of Mechanique, however, is very different from the lushly-described world of The Night Circus: where The Night Circus is almost overwhelmingly rich, Mechanique seems barren and dry.

The story takes place in an unidenti
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Craig
Though it has steampunk flavoring, Mechanique is a hybrid novel, much like the half-human/half-mechanical characters (creatures?) it describes. It’s a New Weird dark fantasy tale set in a dystopian war-torn landscape. The structure of the story and its narrative cogs are very postmodern. The text vacillates between first person narrative (in the voice of Little George, the Circus gofer) and third person points-of-view that range from brief character sketches to omniscient mis en scenes.
The nove
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Jacey
This book has a plot, it does, it surely does, but the presentation obscures the action almost to the point where it swallows it whole, for the tale is told in first, second and third person and also in the story's present and its past. Confusing? Yes.

Absorbing? Yes. Frustrating? Most certainly. Brilliant? Possibly. Flawed? I think so. Whether the flaws outweigh the brilliance is yes to be decided.

I bought this book for my Kindle because it's on the Nebula shortlist for best novel and I thought
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Nikki
Wouldya look at that, I finally finished reading this? I'm not entirely sure why I stopped: it's not a hard read, and the short chapters pull you on through the story pretty well. There's some gorgeous writing, and the whole structure of it -- the mix of POVs, tenses, etc -- makes it pretty absorbing as you try to figure out all the whys and wherefores. Some of the imagery is just... disgusting, visceral, beautiful, all at once.

The characters are not exactly likeable, but fascinating: Elena, who
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Margaret Fisk
I taught a class called Ideas to Outlines, or Outlining for Organics. As part of the process I presented, I tried to cover all the possible starting points for a novel. The hardest for me was a mood story, because I hadn’t actually encountered one with that focus. I’m all about story, and in most modern novels at least, that means plot-focused.

Mechanique proved me wrong in the most delightful way. This is not a book for the plot-driven, straight-forward reader, but if you’re willing to lay yours
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Shanna Swendson
I got a copy of Mechanique at WorldCon last year and ended up reading it in one sitting on the flight home. I would describe it kind of as a post-apocalyptic steampunk version of the TV series Carnivale (though with an actual circus instead of sideshows). The book is written in a more "literary" style, so it's not a straightforward, plot-driven narrative. It jumps about between first-person, second-person and third-person viewpoint and jumps around in time, weaving incidents from the past into t ...more
Tahlia Newland
If you like strange and different and are fascinated by the idea of a steampunk circus, then don’t miss Mechanique It’s unlike anything I have read before. I didn’t dislike it, but I couldn’t say that I really liked it either. The idea is great, the story good but the way it’s written made it hard for me to get into.

The first half of this book jumps between characters, events and times so much that I was never sure who was narrating the story. The primary narrator didn’t have a name, sex or des
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Beth
Saying too much about the story of this book could spoil it, especially since it's not terribly long. So I'll try not to be too specific, although I'd like to fill up the character limit with all the things I found striking about it.

I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and became quite attached to a handful of them. (The character described as "bitch" practically the second she walked onstage ended up being the one I most empathized with.)

About two-thirds of the way through, a plot showed u
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Nicki Markus
I have struggled all morning to decide how to rate and review this book. Why? Because I loved and hated it at the same time.

What I loved was the amazingly beautiful prose that captured an almost poetic quality at times. This book was beautifully written and the prose was a joy to read.

However, I found the presentation somewhat distracting and detracting. There is a story to this book, but you really have to fight to find it at times amidst constant jumps in the timeline and narrator switches tha
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Melanie Lamaga
This novel, which received a Nebula nomination for Best Novel, takes place in a post-war landscape. The particulars are left vague: we know that there were bombs and radiation, followed by smaller wars for control, and the creation of city-states. Outside of these, borders have become fluid, and life brutal.

To stay out of trouble, the Circus Tresaulti travels a wide circuit; the towns they visit may not exist by the time they return. Those who join the circus are looking for a measure of securit
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Dee
This book won't be for everyone, and everything I loved - the terse and taut writing style, the ruthless characterisation, the unflinching slow collision of tragedies and unravelling of mysteries - might be something others don't like. True for everything, and I really did love this.

It's about belonging and being outside, it's about refuge and sacrifice, it's about wanting and about refusing... it's about loving someone so hard and for so long that you no longer see them, and hating someone so c
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JW
Wow. First novel.

What could have been fascinating read in a post-semiapocalyptic world was a meandering, poorly structured mystery novel. It jumps artlessly and needlessly between POVs, switching from first to third person. It jumbles flashbacks together with lots of awkward, explicit foreshadowing, self-accusing asides and parenthetical statements.

The characters are brilliantly drawn but by the time the secondary players came into use, my eyes were skipping past paragraph after paragraph of moo
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Jenny
This book suffered from coming out at roughly the same time as The Night Circus, being in more or less the same genre, having more or less the same themes, and being not as good and not as advertised. But it's the not as good that is the most important. Like the Night Circus, this book takes up a magical circus with steam punk influences. The characters are not as well developed and neither is the world. It struck me that the author of The Night Circus talks about being influenced by the Theatre ...more
M.K. Hobson
MECHANIQUE is an enormous book—not in size (for it is rather physically compact) but rather in scope. Valentine has an astonishing talent for suggesting a thousand words of backstory with a dozen or so well-crafted words. And yet, the effect is not at all spare or stripped down; you walk away feeling as though you've just read an epic. All the characters are fascinatingly flawed, full of contradictions. There are no villains in this story; everyone's motivation is understandable and, to varying ...more
Elise
I couldn't finish it. The premise seemed so interesting, but there just wasn't enough back story. What happened in the world that made it possible for people to become half machine? How did the woman in charge of the circus (I can't even remember her name) get there? How did she learn to rebuild people with metal? So many unanswered questions, sacrificed for what seems like a little too much love for the esoteric. The author did a great job of creating a very melancholy tone--you really feel for ...more
Andréia
Review in portuguese by blog MON PETIT POISON

Infelizmente mais um livro que eu deixei de descobrir seus mistérios antes de chegar as páginas finais, apesar de toda a boa crítica que li pela blogosfera, em nenhum momento fui avisada que o mesmo não era exatamente uma história linear e sim pequenos contos/momentos narrados pelo ponto de vista de um dos personagens sobre o circo.

A narrativa não me agradou, apesar dos capítulos curtíssimos, a narrativa não me empolgava, ela é bem arrastada e não con
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Tudor Ciocarlie
A very strange, eerily novel that more than deserves every praise it got. Using a strange circus in a post-apocalyptic setting, Genevieve Valentine talks like no other writer about human frailty and loss, but also about what makes us strong in the most unusual and extreme circumstances.
Gregor Xane
Despite what I saw as a serious flaw in how viewpoint was handled in this book, I found this to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Jeremy Preacher
Mechanique is full of beautiful imagery and tragic characters, set in a world that has, as King put so aptly, moved on. It's magical realism with a steampunk aesthetic, sort of, and the combination is vivid.

It doesn't quite sit easily with me, though - I was a little disappointed when it became clear that this is more fantasy than soft sci-fi. Maybe it's more literary than anything - which, for me, is usually a condemnation, one I'm not sure Mechanique quite deserves - but it just doesn't totall
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Althea Ann
There were things I liked about this book... and there were things that annoyed me about this book.
I felt as if any Readers Advisory Service out there would say? What? You loved China Mieville's 'The Scar?' and you loved Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus?" Well then, HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU! And I have to say... "but...no."
This book does indeed have many of the elements that I've loved from both of those books. Grotesquely mechanically enhanced people. A circus with performers who do not di
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Sarah
Neatly straddling the line between New Weird and Steampunk, this book has a lot to offer those who liked The Night Circus but wished that either TNC was shorter, or had a somewhat more readily apparent plot.

The circus of marvels contained in this book is not powered by magic - not entirely, anyway - and it's more of an actual circus, with performers rather than an exhibition of magical prowess. Unlike the Night Circus, which is a wonder-filled, beautifully powered attraction with a dark purpose
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Ryan
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti
Genevieve Valentine
284 pages, Read it in paper-back

This has been sitting on my stack for about a year and I finally decided that I should conquer it, and thus I did. Less than eight hours of reading time and it was swallowed, it was that easy of a read.

As the title says, Mechanique is a story of the Circus Tresaulti and takes place in some unknown time in our future. A future that has seen the earth shattered by weapons and war. The circus however is a t
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Theresa
One of the best things about blogging is the exposure to books I wouldn't have known about if it wasn't for the various relationships forged along the way. One of my favorite authors (Alex Bledsoe) recently recommended the book Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine and once I read that the story was about a "steampunk-flavored circus," I was in.

Mechanique is a meandering story, much like the circus it depicts. Set some time in a distant future in a world torn apart by
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branewurms
I don't even know how to say anything about this book. I mean, steampunky, magical, timeless circus! Awesome, right? But the Awesome Factor(tm) doesn't even begin to cover it. This book was beautiful. Really and simply beautiful. Elegantly understated (it was amazing how much was conveyed with so few words), with an eerie emotional force. A real sense of - how should I say it? - mono no aware, I think. (Which is a little strange, given the particular nature of the Circus's secret, but I think it ...more
Yvensong
4 1/2 Stars

Wow! I understand that this is G. Valentine's first novel. I sure hope she considers writing other novels. She had me enthralled from the first page on, even though she did something I usually detest in novels. The narrative switches from second person, third person and first throughout the novel. Most authors do that so poorly that it detracts from the story. In this novel, it adds layers of complexity, making this one of the most interesting novels I've read in a while.

The character
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Genevieve Valentine has sold more than three dozen short stories; her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Journal of Mythic Arts, Fantasy Magazine, Lightspeed, and Apex, and in the anthologies Federations, The Living Dead 2, The Way of the Wizard, Running with the Pack, Teeth, and more.

Her nonfiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, and Fantasy Magazine, a
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“I had never seen her this way before, and I wondered why until I realized it was the tattoo; I saw, finally, there was magic at work here that was darker and deeper than I had imagined, that the tattoo was like putting a pair of spectacles on a child with poor vision. I stared up at the camp hill, my heart in my throat, and wondered what everything would look like, now that I could see.” 5 likes
“This is what happens when you take a step: you are moving closer to what you want.” 3 likes
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