Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As we get towards the end of the year, I realize that I'm reading books faster than I'm reviewing them. Not really all that fast, but still, I'm behind on reviewing. I started Mechanique in the hopes of finishing it before the Nebulas were announced, so I that I could make my own "pick" in advance. Having read 5 of the 6 nominees, I think I would have chosen Firebird.
When I was partway through this book, I wrote, "So far it's not really to my tastes, but it's an interesting and inventive approach to sf/fantasy." After finishing it (in June), I think that's a pretty good summary of how I feel.
It's a book about a circus in a post-apocalyptic setting. Maybe the neatest idea in the book is that most of the circus performers are "enhanced" and thus able to perform the circus acts with literally superhuman abilities.
It gradually became clear, however, that these abilities were more akin to magic than technology. In other words, this is really a work of fantasy, not sf. Further, the identity of the "post-apocalyptic" setting is clearly intentionally vague -- maybe this is the US after a nuclear war. Or not. It's clearly a valid authorial choice, but not one I find interesting.
It's beautifully written, and the skipping backwards and forwards in time doesn't confuse most of the time. The characters are well-drawn and compelling. Sometimes they come across as a little bit...extreme, I suppose, but they are circus performers after all. The plot was interesting enough, although it took a while to pick up.
All in all, it was a book I appreciated more than enjoyed.