starmetal_oak (starmetal_oak) wrote in bookish,

Review: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

Title: Palimpsest
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Pages: 367
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: A
Challenge: calico_reaction's Book Club - August Challenge

From Goodreads: 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 kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important—a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.

Sorry for not getting this review up earlier; it took me longer to read this book than I thought. Mostly that is due to the fact that I had to read it in small bursts. The prose is so poetic and what I would say abstract that it's hard to get into at first. After some time though I got into the groove and it was a fabulous read.

I didn't think I would like this month's selection. I didn't vote for this one, and I figured anything so based on sex would be too tacky. And yes, there is sex but it is not overused. It suits the story perfectly. Anyways, at first I found myself thinking "wah...?" a lot in this book, but that's the fun of it. The images Valente creates in her story are nothing like I ever read before. That's what makes this book good for me: something different, special, an experience rather than just a story.

The plot mostly deals with the four character's experiences and discoveries in our world and those in Palimpsest. I found myself first attracted to Sei and her fascination with trains. I really enjoyed her storyline through the whole book. I also came to like November and Ludovico by the end of it. Oleg never interested me too much. I suppose it was because of his obsession and his desperation to cling to it.

This book is nominated for the Hugo Award. I have only read one other nomination, WWW:Wake by Robert J. Sawyer and I would say that I would vote for Palimpsest just for sheer writing talent and originality (not to say Wake isn't original itself).

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a different reading experience, doesn't mind very poetic prose and many sex scenes. I'll be reading more by Valente for sure. A

Currently Reading: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

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