REVIEW SUMMARY: Short fiction and poetry with a connection to Japan, including mythology interpretations, dystopian alternate history, the education and protection of artificial intelligences, and the development of the author herself.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Valente has recently garnered a lot of well-deserved attention for her young adult The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland series. Many of the pieces in The Melancholy of Mechagirl have an emotional and autobiographical flavor, and touch on more mature and layered themes, sex and love, failure, expectations vs. reality, and the lies we tell ourselves when hope is on the line.
PROS: Gorgeous prose and imagery; multi-layered and evocative stories that bend back onto themselves, pulling the reader in and offering a unique combination of mythology, intimacy, and science fictional ideas.
CONS: The poetry was mostly lost on me. It was pretty, but I didn’t know what any of it meant.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a must-have collection for both fans of Valente’s works, and readers who are new to her works and are looking for a good starting point.
Catherynne M. Valente spent only a few years in Japan as a young Navy wife, but those few years helped make her the writer she is today. She went for love, armed only with a few stories, and returned with memories of shrines and tsukumogami, patron spirits and folklore, and weaved it all together in a way only Valente’s poetic imagination can. One of her first published novels, In the Night Garden, was born in Japan, and her experiences there, both good and bad, helped shape her into one of our generation’s most imaginative and talented authors.