The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This collection of Cat Valente's short fiction and a novella was probably one of the biggest pleasant surprises I've had all month. I've been catching up with her works and I'm generally not a huge, huge fan of short fiction, but this one kinda rather blew me away.
They've all got a theme of Japanese, either explicit or implicit, and it's not that surprising since Valente lived on a base in Japan and can draw from a lot of experiences and interests. This, if nothing else, could have been enough to catch me, but her prose is, as always, gorgeous and dense and so good as to be shocking.
There's a lot of really excellent poetry in here, but it's her SF poetry that really revs my engines. Melancholy of Mechagirl was good and very disturbing, but I think I liked the Girl with Two Skins better.
Ink, Water, Milk was a short that was disturbing and dreamlike and oppressive. Maybe not my favorite but the prose was a delicious swirl. The same thing can be said about Fifteen Panels Depicting the Sadness of the Baku and the Jotai, only more so.
The Ghosts of Gunkanjima was very much a windy story of ghosts. Short and clever.
My second favorite story, easily one I'll remember for years, is Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time. It's heavy on the science, almost all physics, but every short-short was couched in a creation myth subverted heavily by the real science. I chortled and had wicked delight with all. This is why Cat is called a master of MythoPunk. Way-clever and cool shit. :)
One breath, One Stroke was okay but it relies on our understanding of Shinto (of which I'm woefully unprepared), but Story No. 6 was a great ghost story of a Kami who haunts old celluloid. It was delicious as hell and reminded me wonderfully of Radiance.
"Fade to White" was also very amusing for what was ostensibly a post-apocalyptic story all about the cultural changes of an early 60's America forced to go into heavy-procreation mode because of all the radiation sickness.
I was heavily amused by the short story "Killswitch" about a game and its peculiarities and the obsessions of all its fans and just how tragic it could be.
The last novella was probably the most fascinating, most SF, and most interesting in the core of what it means to be human, have a family, and grow... all the while taking on the forms of old myths, legends, and stories. No matter how I look at "Silently and Very Fast", I'm shocked with the accomplishment, the prose, the characters, and the structure. Blown away. From Inanna and Ereshkigal, I was caught and swept away with the discussions of a girl and her house computer, their growth, all the way to exploring the stars. :)
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