Monday, August 29, 2011

Reading: Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, the debut novel by Genevieve Valentine, is the best book I've read so far this year. The language of the novel is poetic and hypnotic and moving. It's a short novel, but Valentine managaes to get across so much with so little - a gift if ever there was one, truly.

It's about a traveling circus in either an alternate Earth or a post-apocalyptic Earth. The circus is run by the enigmatic Boss, a woman with an ambiguous past and strange magical powers. In this circus, many of the performers are kept alive by adding mechanical components to their bodies - from Panadrome, the one-man orchestra, to Elena the aerialist with brass bones. Even as the circus is hounded by "government men," there is a quiet war between several performers and a pair of gold wings Boss keeps.

You might be saying to yourself, isn't the whole circus thing kind of worn thin? Perhaps so, but Valentine injects it with grace (sidenote: now I'm imagining a needle full of grace in my arm) and heartbreak. Even though it is a somwhat nonlinearly structured novel, every scene works toward its inevitable conclusion with surprising wonder. Supremely-doo-remely Recommended.

Here is a an excerpt from Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti:

Little George was slated to be fixed, but Boss keeps him out of the workshop even after he asks, and so he keeps moving slowly through time until he's older than Ying, until he's nearly as old as Jonah, who has been twenty-five since the day he came to the circus and was gifted with his clockwork lungs.

Slowly, Little George begins to wake up to the world in a way he cannont name.

He does not know that Ying will never be older; he does not know why he takes such care not to anger the Grimaldi brothers. He is not aware, only awake.

He knows nothing for certain; he only sees that when the government man is gone, the circus gathers in two groups to see what Boss will do: who are alive, and those who have survived the bones.

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