Palimpsest - Catherynne M. Valente
8:06 PM | Author: Lissar

The traffic in Palimpsest can get a little backed up.

I'll tell you a little secret: I love cities. Yes, this is coming from me, a confirmed tree-hugger, hiking-lover, bohemian. But not, I must point out, real cities. I love visiting fictional cities, ones that have strange things and people that can't even compare to the most outlandish cities in the real world. In my journeys, I have been under London, over London, and between London. I've been to castles in the air, houses under hills, and beneath the waves of the ocean. But even after all the places I've seen, I've never been quite anywhere like the city of Palimpsest.

Here's the skinny:

There is a city by the name of Palimpsest. It's actually location is probably nowhere, but it could just as well be everywhere. You can't get there, but you could get there, and if you do get you it will mark you forever. There is only one way to Palimpsest, as a disease. To be more specific, a sexually transmitted disease. You can only get there by sleeping with people who've been there before. The disease marks your body, as a map of the city. Not the whole city, only part. That is your part of the city. Though it's your part, you will most likely never get there. You can only go to the part of the city that is marked on your partner, and you will go there when you dream. The city is like a dream, though it is very real to it's denizens. Four strangers in different parts of the world come to Palimpsest, how will the city change their lives...?

What I liked:

Unique: It is a sexually transmitted city that lives through peoples skin. Though I've been to hundreds of mysterious dream cities before, this particular method of transportation is unusual enough that I took notice.

Beautiful Prose: The writing is absolutely beautiful. Lyrical and clear, every image was vivid in my mind. I would love to paint the whole book, in a series of a hundred paintings, to capture every image that she set down.

Familiar Places: The book takes place both in Palimpsest and in various places in the real world. The end of the book in particular is set in one of my most favorite places in the world, Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Not to mention the detailed talk of trains, particular Japanese trains, which makes me miss Japan very much...

Interesting Characters: Both main and secondary characters were very interesting, though given that there are four main characters we didn't get quite as much of each character as I might have liked. Still, each character was unique and fleshed out as much as possible. Though I can't say I loved each character, I was intrigued by each character, and wanted to know more.

What I didn't like:

Where Are We Going: The unfortunate thing about the book was that for at least 4/5ths of the book it lacked a sense of purpose. We would see scenes of each characters, but aside from the city there was no real thread pulling us through. The scenes alone are beautiful, but I would have liked to see what eventual end we were heading towards a bit earlier in the book. Everything sort of abruptly pulled together in the end, it would have felt better if it had been worked in more gradually.

Beautiful Prose: Yes I did just put this in both sections. While the prose is very lovely, and I enjoyed it quite a lot, I would have liked to have a few more straight forward parts to lend some weight to the dreamy lightness of the rest. Without something more concrete, I felt like I was just floating through a dream sometimes, which while I understand that this was the point, sometimes it's good to have something a little more down to earth to give everything else more meaning.

The bottom line:

This isn't a book a would recommend to everyone. Though I enjoyed it very much, I think it takes a select kind of personality to enjoy this book. If you like dreamy metaphorical imagery then this book might be for you, but if not I would stay away. It was unfortunate about the parts that I mentioned that I didn't like. If the book had more purpose I would have easily given it a 10/10. As it is, I will have to give it:

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Eight out of ten apples.
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