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Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Genevieve Valentine, Kiri Moth (Illustrator)

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3653129,724 (3.86)29
Member:psutto
Title:Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti
Authors:Genevieve Valentine
Other authors:Kiri Moth (Illustrator)
Info:Prime Books (2011), Edition: Second Ed, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:2013 challenge

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Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine (2011)

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Odd - both the story and the way it was written. I'm not sure if I liked it or not; I found it rather hard to get into, and the staccato writing style didn't help. Oddly, the style reminded me of Angela Carter - and the story if she'd written the book of the TV series Carnivale.
  Maddz | Feb 21, 2017 |
This is unlike most Steampunk books I've ever read - most of them lack a certain subtlety in order to make the steampunk elements front and center.

The writing in this book is gorgeous, like you're floating through a surreal and quiet dream. That said, the style is probably not for everyone, as the story is occasionally obscured by the stylized writing, and comes through in fractured pieces.

It's very much worth the effort to read and understand, if nothing else to appreciate the prose. ( )
  thebechdelscream | Dec 14, 2016 |
A steampunk fantasy about a circus which travels across a post-apocalyptic landscape plagued by war and political instability.

It is easy to describe Mechanique is about: the circus and its secrets, about how various characters came to join it and how they work together, about happens when things go wrong. But that doesn't capture what it is like.

Mechanique can be dark and unsettling and cold. The mechanical alterations the Boss makes to people - alterations which save them, yet come at a cost - are eerie. The people who join the circus often do so in desperation, because they don't have many other options. The circus offers the security of a home and a job - yet it's a precarious just-scrapping-by and accepting-there-are-risks sort of security. There's warmth and camaraderie, but there's also grief and bitterness.
And it's obvious, from the very beginning, that things go wrong.

The story holds the reader at a distance: because there are so many characters and it is impossible to get to know all of them; because much of the story is told from Little George's perspective, and he is often an observer who doesn't understand the circus he has grown up with (to be fair, George is also a happy, hopeful filter to watch the circus through).

A powerful, evocative story. I admired it more than I enjoyed it, but I think I'm glad I read it.

Boss always tells the rubes that her late husband made us all.
"Oh lord," she says when they wonder about our mechanicals. She lifts her hands and trills. "I can barely oil the things, let alone!"
She doesn't say what she lets alone, and no one asks. [...] I think she says it so they get the feeling we could break at any moment. It's always more exciting to watch something you know could backfire. [...] (I didn't understand her. I had been with the circus too long: I felt too safe to know why it was better to make some thing seem breakable and frail. I didn't know how might come looking for us. If they thought we were strong enough to take hold.)
( )
  Herenya | Mar 31, 2016 |
There were things I liked about this book... and there were things that annoyed me about this book.
I felt as if any Readers Advisory Service out there would say? What? You loved China Mieville's 'The Scar?' and you loved Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus?" Well then, HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU! And I have to say... "but...no."
This book does indeed have many of the elements that I've loved from both of those books. Grotesquely mechanically enhanced people. A circus with performers who do not die. A land torn by conflict. Lots of ambiguity, lots of metaphor.
But somehow, it just didn't come together for me, emotionally or intellectually, like the other two books. (This book was actually published slightly before The Night Circus, the authors were probably working on the books at the same time, so I do not actually think one imitated another; they just happen to have many of the same elements and themes.)
I've spent some time now thinking about why it didn't wholly come together for me.
Part of it was aesthetic. I really did not like how the author keeps taking time out to refer to the reader as "you." I felt like it was a device intended to lure me into the story; which had the opposite effect, and pushed me out of the story... with feelings of aggravation.
The other thing was that: Mechanical enhancements are usually about ingenuity, technology, the uses and misuses of physical ability. Here, they are not. The enhancements/mutilations as they function in this story, are fully and completely magical. There is no reason, plotwise, for them to be mechanical; they don't actually function as if they are mechanical.
I also was just not drawn in by the love/hate conflict over "who gets the wings." I didn't feel it. Many of the characters were too vaguely drawn. (For example: we know Elena is a cruel bitch, because we are told how mean she is ad infinitum. But I did not once notice, or feel, her being particularly cruel.) I wanted to know the characters as people; to know what drove them to their extreme decisions. Instead they felt like stock characters in fairy tales. The time and place are ambiguous - and I liked that - but I felt like it needed some sharply human figures to anchor it.
On the other hand, there were things about the book I liked very much. I thought that the war-torn land, in near-eternal conflict, with the circus endlessly making its circuit, worked very well. I ended up really liking the Boss - and the thwarted feelings of her musician for her were understated and effective. Nice themes of dependency, independence, sacrifice, oppression, responsibility, loyalty. And the final conflict, where it comes down to a choice between letting herself and those who personally depend on her die... or potentially destroying all of her larger dreams - it's horribly effective. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Another day, another YA dystopian piece of crap trying to be vogue. I didn't find it poetic, I found it frustratingly badly written in a voice that seemed skitzophrenic at best. A hint at mystery from a Government Man (capital letters so you know he means business) and an obvious collection of circus "freaks" with some steampunk bits glued to them. Possibly an interesting premise but with writing and a POV like that, who can really tell. ( )
  Xleptodactylous | Apr 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
[I]n a highwire act of her own, Valentine still raises the novel above the ordinary through her ability to convey the richness of the circus performers’ emotional lives, coupled with impressive writing. . .
 
 
added by nsblumenfeld | edittor.com, Nina Lourie (May 5, 2011)
 
 
Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique, a steampunk/post-apocalyptic/magical-realist/paranormal adventure, is one of those rare books that will transform your understanding of genre. It's a genuinely literary book that uses the elements of genre to tell the truth about people. Fittingly for a book about acrobats and tumblers, this book both soars and confounds your expectations.
added by ShelfMonkey | editio9, Charlie Jane Anders (Apr 27, 2011)
 
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To My Family
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The tent is draped with strings of bare bulbs, with bits of mirror tied here and there to make it sparkle. (It doesn't look shabby until you've already paid.)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Come inside and take a seat; the show is about to begin... Outside any city still standing, the Mechanical Circus Tresaulti sets up its tents. Crowds pack the benches to gawk at the brass-and-copper troupe and their impossible feats: Ayar the Strong Man, the acrobatic Grimaldi Brothers, fearless Elena and her aerialists who perform on living trapezes. War is everywhere, but while the Circus is performing, the world is magic. That magic is no accident: Boss builds her circus from the bones out, molding a mechanical company that will survive the unforgiving landscape. But even a careful ringmaster can make mistakes. Two of Tresaulti's performers are entangled in a secret standoff that threatens to tear the circus apart just as the war lands on their doorstep. Now the Circus must fight a war on two fronts: one from the outside, and a more dangerous one from within.
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"Outside any city still standing, the Mechanical Circus Tresaulti sets up its tents. Crowds pack the benches to gawk at the brass-and-copper troupe and their impossible feats: Ayar the Strong Man, the acrobatic Grimaldi Brothers, fearless Elena and her aerialists who perform on living trapezes. War is everywhere, but while the Circus is performing, the world is magic. That magic is no accident: Boss builds her circus from the bones out, molding a mechanical company that will survive the unforgiving landscape. But even a careful ringmaster can make mistakes. Two of Tresaulti's performers are trapped in a secret stand-off that threatens to tear the Circus apart, just as the war lands on their doorstep. Now they must fight a war on two fronts: one from the outside, and a more dangerous one from within..."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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