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The Melancholy of Mechagirl

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  856 Ratings  ·  135 Reviews
Science fiction and fantasy stories about Japan by the multiple-award winning author and New York Times best seller Catherynne M. Valente. A collection of some of Catherynne Valente's most admired stories, including the Hugo Award-nominated novella "Silently and Very Fast" and the Locus Award finalist "13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time," with a brand-new long story to ancho ...more
Paperback, 219 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Haikasoru (first published July 14th 2013)
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This collection of Cat Valente's short fiction and a novella was probably one of the biggest pleasant surprises I've had all month. I've been catching up with her works and I'm generally not a huge, huge fan of short fiction, but this one kinda rather blew me away.

They've all got a theme of Japanese, either explicit or implicit, and it's not that surprising since Valente lived on a base in Japan and can draw from a lot of experiences and interests. This, if nothing else, could have been enough t
4 and a half, rounded up.

Sometimes, I just need to read something beautiful. It doesn't matter if it's happy-beautiful or sad-beautiful: it just has to move me, remind me that not everything is bleak and harsh. I usually get that craving after one too many dystopian novels...

In the realm of beautiful prose, Catherynne Valente is in a league of her own. Even when her plots meander and fizzle out, even when her characters make no sense, her words are still magical, rich and intoxicating. Valente's
Lᴀʏᴀ  Rᴀɴɪ
As soon as I started perusing through the vivacious prose of this surprisingly delightful anthology of some of the most unusual cosmic folklore and tales I have ever encountered, Catherynne M. Valente was more than effective with the spell that she cast on me which at times feels like a precision instrument probing at the areas of my imagination that are better left untapped. It was an exhausting reading experience that kept me on my toes and amused me to no end.

Valente's literary machinations
The Melancholy of Mechagirl is a selection of Valente’s stories and poetry. As usual with Valente, I have the problem that I love her writing, but not always the substance. The poetry was too busy being strings of pretty words that I didn’t really get the sense out of it; some of the short stories felt so ornate they felt like they were more for show than to really be handled. I know this is my preference here — other people dig through Valente’s prose happily — and I even like it because of tha ...more
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an attractive collection of short fiction and poetry inspired by what the back cover calls ‘Japanese themes’. It caught my eye in Waterstones partly for its pretty cover and partly because the author’s name rung a number of bells in my brain as being somebody I ought to be interested in. Having read it, I’m still not entirely sure what ‘Japanese themes’ means (perhaps ‘inspired by an American woman’s approach to Japanese history and culture’ would be more appropriate?) but whatever. Some ...more
This collection by Valente is like her previous writing with vivid, unique metaphors and complex relationships, but different in its deeply personal, sometimes semi-autobiographical nature. Some of the stories at times feel uncomfortably close, in the way when someone is telling you something heartbreaking about themselves, but you can do nothing to comfort or change their past. I applaud Valente for being able to so beautifully explore her past while still creating stories that explore the idea ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
"But perhaps I see, very, very occasionally, incompletely and always dimly, by the light of the wish-fulfilling jewel in Jizo's tutelary hand, through, with difficulty, with error, with aching, with determination, to the truth of things. Or at least to a better lie. Everything has a dual nature."

The Melancholy of Mechagirl is a collection of Catherynne M. Valente’s short fiction influenced by her time in Japan. Containing both poetry and various lengths of short stories, this collection plays bo
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stunning imagery, complex and wild characters. Beautiful.
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction
This is a collection of short stories, and Valente often revisits her time and loneliness in Japan, as well as her love for Japan. The stories, each with their own perspective and unique charms, flow effortlessly from the page, each with their own different, yet similar, tale, and triggering memories of other experiences already played.

It is, as the title might hint, at times melancholic, but in the beautiful sense of the word. The mixture of fiction, autobiographical, cyberpunk, folklore, fair
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Melancholy of Mechagirl is a reader's religious artifact, inside and out. The stunning cover created by Yuko Shimizu is a gorgeous, elegant mix of contemporary and traditional style and subject matter - her signature style, if you will. Even better, the value of The Melancholy of Mechagirl perceived at first glance is just the tip of the iceberg. The story behind Shimizu's growth as a woman and artist is so interesting in comparison to Valente's own, that once you've made the connection, you ...more
Peter Hollo
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best things I've read in ages. Even the poems - I'm not usually into poems, especially sf/fantasy poems - are beautiful little pieces.
The prose, too, is poetic. Whether mythical fantasy, urban fantasy or even science fiction, the words and paragraphs and sub-stories are a delicacy to savour.
Many of the stories are semi-autobiographical (as made clear by both Teruyuki Hashimoto's introduction and Valente's own afterword), and the most touching is "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Sp
What a strangely beautiful, haunting, magical book. I don't even know how to review it, because words wouldn't do it justice. If you're a fan of the magical fantasy writing that is extremely bizarre in a good way, I highly recommend this book. It combines these elements with a closer look at Japan through an outsider's lens. Often times, books like this exoticize the country, but each short story and poem contained in this volume highlights Japan's beauty without emphasizing the 'otherness' whic ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
The Melancholy of Mechagirl (Poem): Positive reaction
Ink, Water, Milk: 3/5
Fifteen Panels Depicting the Sadness of the Baku and the Jokai: 3/5
Ghosts of Gunkanjima (Poem): Negative reaction
Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time: 3.5/5
One Breath, One Stroke: 4/5
Story No. 6: 3/5
Fade to White: 4/5
The Emperor of Tsukayama Park (Poem): Mixed reaction
Killswitch: 3/5
Memoirs of a Girl Who Failed to be Born from a Peach (Poem): Negative reaction
The Girl with Two Skins (Poem): Negative reaction
Silently and
Sian Jones
Valente is a virtuoso writer. Her prose reads like poetry, the best kind, that is aloft and grounded at the same time. She captures emotional meaning by indirect and sinuous routes, mixing the technological and the mythological in splendid and surprising combination, and she winds narrative through the whole glorious intricacy. I love this work so very much.
It took me forever to read this, but not because it was bad. I wanted to savor it.
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it

I have had this book for a while to read, it’s a collection of short stories by Valente and has some excellent and some good stories in it. I have read most of Valente’s novels and really enjoy her prose-like and sometimes ambiguous writing style.

This book is a collection of thirteen stories. Most of the stories are somewhat science fiction in theme and have a very Japanese feel to them (they deal with Japanese mythology or culture).

There were a few stories I absolutely loved, some I liked, and
May 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Of all the writers that I've stumbled upon the past few years, few have so consistently left me deliriously happy from the richly imaginative worlds she stitches together from equal parts light-hearted whimsy and emotional self awareness. Sadly, howver, this collection of stories inspired by the the two lonely years she spent as a military wife in Japan is a very hit-and-miss creation. Teetering from the quite fantastic eponymous poem of a mech pilot battling existential angst that opens the col ...more
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthologies
(Full review here:

This is definitely a collection for fans of sci-fi and speculative fiction who enjoy playing with atypical ideas , and who want something new and fresh and their reading. It’s for those who enjoy good SFF fiction about Japan (in the time of Japanophilia, there’s a lot of Japan-centric fiction out there but a lot of it doesn’t exactly have a stamp of quality). It’s for those who, like me, are just addicted to Valente’s writing! It’s a bo
This.was.fantastic. Valente's writing about Japan always reaches eerily into the bones -- it's so clearly personal and formative for her, and there is a passion and a need in these stories that is truly affecting. (There's a real sense of Japan as a diverse place, and so much more than the typical stereotypes of what Japan is -- which is pretty damn refreshing.)

There's so much great stuff in here. Obviously Silently and Very Fast is a well-lauded masterpiece of a novella, and "Thirteen Ways of L
Knife Cat
Descriptive writing so beautiful it aches. Worlds where science is infused with, inseparable from myth, where androids do dream - thoughts and symbols more complex and alluring than electric sheep. Stories nestled within stories, unfolding like petals, sending down roots that tethered themselves to the reader. This is science fiction of the sort that breathes life into itself, like inflating a paper ball, fragile and translucent and glowing (from radiation? or maybe just the light of distant sun ...more
Austin Williams
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
There's a whole wash of emotions I felt as I finished this book. Valente does that, touching the very tendons of the heart and electrifying the imagination and the intellect.

It brought me near tears several times, then with Silently and Very Fast, well... crap. Another amazing story that had me breaking down on the subway.

I don't know what to rate this collection. Through it all though, it hits on all of the things that make stories spectacular, transcendent and art in the strongest sense. Valen
Dean Parker
Mar 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
I did not like it. It's my bad, though; it was just too beautiful for me to appreciate. For once, I feel compelled to qualify my dislike. The words fell around my brain softly like the first snow at midnight; quiet and awesome; it was a light snow; you could hardly feel it; yet, in the dark it felt like a really slow rain; yet, it felt important and ethereal, but beyond my comprehension; very gossamer; yet substantial like a haiku, but maybe more.
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved it, Catherynne Valente seems to have this different way of looking at things and she makes you see the way she sees the world in her stories. 'Silently and Very Fast' took my breath away.

That said, because of personal reasons having nothing to do with the author's skill or her body of work, this is probably the only book of hers that I would read.
Jul 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting characters. But I guess I haven't really read a lot of science fiction to compare this one to. I liked bits and pieces of it, but I didn't enjoyed it 100%. But like I said, I'm no pro when it comes to science fiction.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended if you like: poetry with your prose, pop culture references, magic realism, Japanese mythology, the Valente style, punk with your fantasy, STYLE

*Also recommended if you need a creative jolt to your system

Triggers: Melancholy (duh), loneliness, death and blood and all that (none explicit, but very stylized), Alternate Extreme McCarthy Americana, sex between any and every thing imaginable (ex. a folding screen and a long-snouted Baku), some unhappy characters, strong language, etc.

Matthew Lloyd
"For foreigners, Japan in a Rorschach painting."

Catherynne M. Valente writes beautiful prose. It is always worth bringing that up at the beginning of a review of her work, because regardless of what it is that she is writing (in prose), it is probably beautiful.* In fact, I expect I will overuse the word "beautiful" in this review because it is the only word that seems fit to describe prose which is always such a delight to read. This isn't necessarily a good thing - I will often read whatever n
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A really great example of a range of Cat Valente writing, from her poetry (which I hadn't read any of before) to the novella "Silently and Very Fast". Some folklore, some science fiction, some strongly lit-fic meditations on colonialism and marriage and loneliness. Obviously it's all extremely personal, and drawn from her experience living in Japan. It was a little strange to learn so many personal details about someone I don't know at all, but that's the nature of fiction, I suppose.

I also had
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
the parts that i understood were stunning & valente's writing is gorgeous, i'm just not destined 2 Get sci-fi apparently. favs: the melancholy of mechagirl / ink, water, milk (the water sections) / thirteen ways of looking at space/time / story no. 6 / fade to white.

a few fav quotes:
"pipe that sound into my copper-riveted heart,
that softgirl/brightgirl/candygirl electrocheer gigglenoise"

(from the melancholy of mechagirl)

“I am sustained by the thing that violates my heart and breaks the peac
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
A few of the short stories were a bit too vague for me to fully grasp in this first reading, but I think those will become clearer on consecutive readings.

It was the poems that I just could not make heads nor tails out of. I am sure that this is wholly on me, as poetry is just not something I enjoy at the best of times. I have heard it said that it is not about understanding poetry, but what one feels when reading it. That might be true, but when the majority of the genre leaves you with just th
Dragan Nanic
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another great recommendation from Goodreads! The collection of stories that immediately made me a fan of Catherynne M. Valente.

Stories (and some poems) contain fantastical elements mixed with fascinating modern and mythological Japan experienced through the eyes of the young woman stranded in the middle of it. The language is beautiful, the imagination rich and the combination of mythological, retro and futuristic worlds (often within the same story) is quite unique.

The story Silently and very
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Catherynne M. Valente was born on Cinco de Mayo, 1979 in Seattle, WA, but grew up in in the wheatgrass paradise of Northern California. She graduated from high school at age 15, going on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, receiving her B.A. in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics. She then drifted away from her M.A. program and into a long residence in the concrete and cam ...more
“Everything is always happening all at once, in the present tense, forever, the beginning and the end and the denouement and the remaindering.” 6 likes
“Robots are like Mars: they need
Boys won't do;
the memesoup is all wrong. They stomp
when they should kiss
and they're none too keen
on having things shoved inside them...

It's not a robot
until you put a girl inside. Sometimes
I feel like that.
A junkyard
the Company forgot to put a girl in.”
More quotes…