||[Aug. 1st, 2011|07:08 pm]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
What I love most about Mechanique, the debut novel by Genevieve Valentine, is how gleefully it breaks all the so-called writing rules everyone always insists you follow. The novel uses first person, second person, and third person POV. It's told in past tense and present tense. It's science fiction and fantasy, steampunk and magic. It intrudes upon the action with whole chapters of backstory. What I love most about Genevieve Valentine as an author is that she makes you not care about any of that. The novel just plain works. The year's only half over, but Mechanique is already on my list of the year's best.
The novel tells of a traveling circus in the far future, through a landscape devastated by civil war and neglected by an endless series of new governments. Boss, the Ringleader, has surgically altered the bodies of her performers by joining flesh and metal. How is she able to do this? Why does she do it? These are some of the questions it is an absolute joy to discover the answers to within the pages.
Two plot threads weave through the novel, both of which are fascinating. The first follows the rivalry between Bird and Stenos, two new performers to the circus who are both after the beautiful metal wings Boss keeps in her workshop. (Here, Valentine does a masterful job with emotional veracity. We're told over and over again that Bird and Stenos hate each other, but she leaves enough hints, enough sly moments, to convince the reader that it's actually the opposite.) The second involves a representative of the new government who wants Boss' surgical ability for himself, so he can create an indestructible army of metal men.
To say any more would be to ruin the amazing journey Valentine takes you on, where almost every chapter provides a new revelation. Suffice it to say I was hooked from the start and completely satisfied by the end. I would be very, very surprised if Mechanique doesn't show up on a whole lot of awards shortlists next year.