Paul's Reviews > Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti

Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine
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's review
Aug 14, 11

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 lesson I’m happy to continually learn (as I learned with The Last Werewolf). So, I usually don’t like circus stories, a trope used in many a bad horror story/novel. I have also uttered the phrase “I can’t stand steampunk” multiple times, out loud, even saying it once in front of Genevieve only hours after having met her. Foot in mouth and personal tastes notwithstanding, Mechanique is a brilliant novel.

The circus troup Tresulti (complete with strong man, aerialists, and more, including them once having a winged-man) travels a war-ravaged landscape, their shows equal parts beauty, wonder, menace, and unease. Most of the performers have been brutally rebuilt with copper bones and other metal parts (all of which become integral extensions of the characters and the story) by the mysterious circus ringleader Boss (she of the large griffin tattoos on her arms). The latest/greatest attempt at government wants to use Boss’s talents to create super soldiers, to help bring back the old world, a world that Boss was once a part of and secretly longs for. But that’s really only one of the many threads of the story. The interplay of all the characters, their motivations and desires, is brilliantly done. The short chapters from various points of view, tenses, and styles acts as an extension of the circus itself and all its myriad bits. Part of the magic of this gothic, dark, wildly imaginative book is that Genevieve has somehow managed to create an incredibly complex story that is still, I think, quite accessible. Certainly unforgettable. Go read it right now.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Simon (new) - added it

Simon Logan That one sounds really borderline for me as to whether I'd enjoy it or not. Your stuff (and Jeffrey Thomas's stuff) equals good. China Mieville equals too self-indulgent and a bit too fantasy for me. Where do you think this one lies?

Paul I went into it weary because folks were describing it as steampunk. But it's not just steampunk (in the sense of 'neat, look at the zeppelins and cool thingies in the victorian age!'). It's gritty and dark as hell. This is a lot closer to a horror novel than a fantasy novel (though I should probably stop trying to label it). I'd be surprised if you didn't like it.

message 3: by Simon (new) - added it

Simon Logan You'll get a punch if I don't like it :) Added it now.

Paul Heh. I'll offer the you-can-punch-me guarantee.

Paul There's a whole body-modification vibe that quite reminded me of some stories from your IO, actually!

message 6: by Simon (new) - added it

Simon Logan Bearing in mind the height difference I'd end up whacking you in the gonads so you'd better be right!

Paul I'll wear a cup for the next few weeks...

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