Mechanique is the first of the Nebula nominated novels I have read this year. No freebie this time, I purchased it and will donate it to my local library. Hard to say if they will keep it, though on balance I hope they do.
Mechanique is a story of a circus, as the subtitle says. It is an unusual circus in that the performers are magically enhanced and bound by Boss, the Ringmaster. The magic is mechanical. But these are pretty flat descriptions, the language of Mechanique is much artsier. It is told in very small chunks, tenses mixing freely, floating between present and past events. Not at all effortless. In fact it's kind of hard to read. We spend a lot of time describing the characters, which should mean we get to know them. But not really, they remain obscure. There's a nice action sequence toward the end where they show their stuff, and a bit of actual profoundness emerges. Overall, though, I was not really satisfied. Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) endorses the book as a "fierce, gilded textual circus". Fierce, nyuh unh, though I'll accept gilded. Valentine has had a lot of work published, but this is her first novel--I think she will get better. But two stars for this one, and the Nebulas need to keep looking.