Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Science fiction and fantasy stories about Japan by the multiple-award winning author and New York Times best seller Catherynne M. Valente. A collection of some of Catherynne Valente’s most admired stories, including the Hugo Award-nominated novella “Silently and Very Fast” and the Locus Award finalist “13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time,” with a brand-new long story to anchor the collection.
Thoughts: The title of this collection alone could have drawn me in, since it’s so unusual that I’d feel compelled to know just what it was all about. Find out it’s a collection of poems and short stories by an author whose work I like (Catherynne Valente) with influences from a country I’m interested in (Japan), and I was sold right there and then.
The collection opens with a poem, the same title as the book itself, a frantic and synesthetic perspective piece that I could probably read a dozen times over and still fail to fully grasp (though I’d appreciate it in new ways every time). It’s a compelling beginning to the book, really; short and fast-paced, giving you a taste of what’s to come without requiring much in the way of time or pages.
Some of the stories in The Melancholy of Mechagirl were not new to me, but they lost nothing in the rereading, and it was good to revisit stories that I’d read elsewhere and enjoyed. I’d heard the story of Killswitch elsewhere, in a collection of gaming urban legends, so it was good to be able to read the story in its entirety instead of just a summary. Most of them, though, were new stories to my mind, and I just drank them up. Valente’s skill with prose, her ability to meld metaphor and myth with solid science and sci-fi is amazing, and not to be missed.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time is one of the stories worthy of particular note, as it rewrites classic creation myths with a scientific bent in an amazingly complex way, while including autobiographics scenes and blending the whole thing into a seamless back-and-forth narrative that is so beautiful to read. It’s a prime example of her skill with words, and for those who haven’t read it yet and want to know just what I’m talking about, the whole story can be found here for free. This is a great taste of what you’re going to get when reading The Melancholy of Mechagirl. Some stories are better than others, as will forever be the case in anthologies and collections, but all are superb and all will impress you.
This is definitely a collection for fans of sci-fi and speculative fiction who enjoy playing with atypical ideas , and who want something new and fresh and their reading. It’s for those who enjoy good SFF fiction about Japan (in the time of Japanophilia, there’s a lot of Japan-centric fiction out there but a lot of it doesn’t exactly have a stamp of quality). It’s for those who, like me, are just addicted to Valente’s writing! It’s a book that has wide appeal, and is filled with stories and poems that all bear reading at least twice to fully grasp, which means it’s one of those uncommon books that I can identify early on as having great reread value. A gem to grace the shelves of SFF fans everywhere!