I taught a class called Ideas to Outlines, or Outlining for Organics. As part of the process I presented, I tried to cover all the possible starting points for a novel. The hardest for me was a mood story, because I hadn’t actually encountered one with that focus. I’m all about story, and in most modern novels at least, that means plot-focused.
Mechanique proved me wrong in the most delightful way. This is not a book for the plot-driven, straight-forward reader, but if you’re willing to lay yourself open to a twisted, tangled journey that often reminded me of an Escher painting, Mechanique will surprise and awe you.
This novel does not hold to point of view conventions, uses second person and intrusive narrators at times, gives no warning when thrusting you into past events, and the story unfolds in glimpses, just enough to have you thinking you’ve found the main point only to lose it again.
At the same time, there is a clearly defined story. Well, actually several of them. This is not a naval-gazing, stream of consciousness novel. Valentine knows exactly where it’s going and how all the pieces fit together, or at least that’s how it comes across.
The characters are compelling, each with their own story and their own reasons behind what they do. The world itself is introduced bit by bit until you get a surreal picture that is so concrete it becomes real. But the strongest part of this novel is the mood. It’s hard to explain because it’s part the world, part the language, part how the story unfolds, and part how everything comes together. I recommend Mechanique wholeheartedly. It’s more than just a read. It’s an experience.
I’ve talked about what made Mechanique special, but neglected the basics. It’s a steampunk apocalyptic novel about a traveling circus. However, the feel of the novel is so much more important than the genre in this case. It’s worth giving a read.
I got the title from NetGalley or I might not have come across it, but I’m glad it caught my eye.