The world is at war. It has been at war for as long as anyone can remember - maybe a couple of generations, maybe a few hundred years; it's hard to say. One woman, a singer, survives the bombing of her opera house and discovers that she suddenly has the ability to meld gears and metal and human bodies; suddenly she could restore and control life. So she started a circus.
Mechanique is not a lighthearted tale. It is not a story of clowns and laughing children. It is a story of a bleak world filled with vivid, gritty, real characters with fantastic bodies and amazing abilities. It is a story written by an author who has thought through all of the implications of her premise, and who doles out the details little by little - a literary flower slowly blooming.
Rarely have I seen an author use perspective so skillfully. When I first started reading I was skeptical of the changes between first, second, and third person. Once I got into the rhythm of the novel, however, this device served as a subtle and smooth way to transition you between characters and viewpoints. What I initially thought as a contrivance instead melted seamlessly into the background and added unexpected depth to the narrative flow.
Surely Mechanique had flaws - it is, after all, a first book - but they've melted away in my memory. I keep returning to the vivid images evoked throughout the novel, and these mental pictures chase away anything but a wash of grey, stormy emotion. Genevieve Valentine might be the next China Mieville - don't take your eyes off her.