Jacob's Reviews > Palimpsest

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
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Jul 08, 10

bookshelves: sci-fi-fantasy-etc, 2010-2011
Read from June 21 to July 05, 2010

July 2010

Palimpsest. What a city. Entered only in dreams, its streets and districts are marked in the flesh. Its maps appear tattooed on the skin after sex. Copulation with other people (victims? sufferers?) who bear the marks grants more access; every orgasm is a ticket to another street corner, another station. It is the strangest of venereal diseases: the city as STD.

What I want to know is, how did Catherynne M. Valente get to this before China Miéville?

It’s probably for the best. Where New Crobuzon would itch and ooze and drown in mites, Palimpsest only burns. It shines. As infections go, it is the most addictive: one time is not enough for those who bear the maps, but too much of the city, like too much of anything else, will only end badly. Only some streets are open, only some doors unlocked, and you can only visit, never stay. You will drown in sleep.

Unless you find the others. New immigrants to Palimpsest enter the city in fours, and the latest Quarto is a special one: November, beloved of bees, draws the eye of the city’s unofficial (and controversial) mayor/general/queen; another, Sei, is adored by the city’s half-feral trains; Oleg has the ghost of his sister to find; and Ludovico has lost too much already. The city will be theirs, or they will lose themselves while trying.

As other reviewers have said already, Palimpsest is lush, intimate, erotic and lyrical, intoxicating and fantastic and breathtaking and weird. Valente’s story is addictive, her style is rich and heavy; together they combine to form something amazing. Were it not for the two confusing male characters, Ludo and Oleg (slightly indistinct, somewhat dull, occasionally hard to tell apart), this would be a perfect book. As it is, it's good. It's damn good. It's really, really damn near perfect, but you should read it no matter what I say.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Palimpsest. What a review. Fabulous.


Jacob Thanks, Ian. I keep forgetting about this review, so it's nice to be reminded it exists. Also a reminder that I need to get around to the rest of Valente's work, too.


message 3: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Valente is a strange 'un...


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