Thursday, February 8, 2018

Mechanique: a dream-filled novel

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine manages to take a bunch of themes you and I have both seen plenty of times before (supernatural circus, post-apocalyptic life, streampunk) and still come up with something striking and original.

In large part, this is due to the honestly lovely writing. The book meanders, moving between the past and present as well as the first, third and even second person. And not only did I not mind, I really enjoyed it. It’s a dreamy, uneasy style that did a great job drawing me in.

There’s going to be some spoilers coming up but they won’t be as bad as you’d think.

In post-apocalyptic world where warfare is ever present and governments fall on a regular basis, we follow a circus that is seemingly made-up of clockwork cyborgs. Which quickly but not shockingly turns out to be a lie. The ringleader is effectively a necromancer and the clockwork cyborgs are really undead.

Which sounds like this is a horror story or at least that the circus is some kind of nightmare place. Instead, Boss, the ringleader, is compassionate if stern and cares for the dead under her care. 

And the dead aren’t mindless zombies or evil monsters. They remain who they were, with all of the flaws and complexities they had when they were alive. And they can still grow and change.

In fact, the circus is a fragile oasis of peace in a violent world. And while the old saw that humans are the real monsters definitely is a through line in the book, the people in the circus are still humans and the outer world isn’t shown to be just bad.

The book is really a triumph of mood and characterization over plot. The plot itself wasn’t that interesting. But the moody, broody tone and the flawed characters that moved through this twilight world of war and desperation, that was engaging and what kept me hooked.

I didn’t think I was going to praise Mechanique as much as I’ve ended up doing. But, at the end of the day, it’s a book I enjoyed and am going to remember.

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