Book - 2009
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"Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse -- a voyage permitted only to those who've always believed there's another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night." To this erotic and fantastic kingdom come Oleg, a New York locksmith; a beekeper, November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a Japanese woman named Sei, each of whom has lost something important in their lives. -- Publisher info.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Bantam Books, 2009
ISBN: 9780553385762
Branch Call Number: FICTION Val
Description: 367 pages ; 21 cm


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samcmar Mar 24, 2018

This book grew on me the more I read it. It's weird, wondrous, and it makes you feel transported into this urban fantasy world that Catherynne M. Valente has crafted. I also loved that we see 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland' in this book as well. Sometimes I will admit, I felt a bit lost, but I found the writing always brought me back. There isn't really a distinctive plot, as this book is more of characters having unique interactions and the story building from there. A very strange but intriguing urban fantasy read.

Jan 21, 2014

Palimpsest is a one of those genre-defying, expectation-defying books. Not in that I expected it to be crap, and it was the best thing ever, but in that it's a contemporary adventure, and a fantasy, with some very erotic writing (but nothing very graphic), and even after finishing it I'm not sure I understand it all.

I came to Catherynne M. Valente by way of SJ Tucker, and have already read the Fairyland series before starting this one. So my order is all kinds of reversed. This book, like the Fairyland series, bears Valente's trademark creative whimsy and macabre writing. She makes very interesting visuals of beautiful and terrible things, lighthearted and deadly, and the end result is (for me) unsettling.

At its heart, this book touches on some very primal human things: the need for community, defensiveness of belief, sensing but not understanding things beyond ourselves, and the hope for something greater than our little human sufferings. But it does so with a twisting path of 4 primary characters, and a flip-flopping narrative (third person in 'the real world', first person omniscient in Palimpsest). The characters were very complex, but the only one I felt any inkling of understanding was Ludo, and not very much with that. Most of the characters in her stories are very selfish, all the time, and it makes me feel frustrated and alienated.

Overall, I would recommend this for fans of contemporary fantasy along the dark and unknowable bent. If you don't get squicked out easily, if you assume everyone is self-centered, if you don't mind not understand what the heck just happened, and if you can easily accept that sexual orientation, desires, and drive are as fluid as water for everyone, everywhere*, this is probably a book you'll enjoy.

* Don't get me wrong- I don't mind titillating fiction, and the concept of a city that's an STD is interesting, but the blithe acceptance of everyone that Palimpsest is worth a sort of immediate sexual desperation (especially considering everything we see of the city is dangerous, painful, and mean) didn't sit well with me.

Jun 02, 2010

I'm not sure what the fuss is... the book is beautifully written, but the prose leaves the plot behind.

It feels like reading someone else's dream journal.

It's about 125 pages in before you start to have a clue of what's going on, and when it really starts getting interesting it ends.


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