seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
[personal profile] seraphcelene
Palimpsest - noun: palimpsest; plural noun: palimpsests
a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.

Oleg, Ludovico, November, and Sei are four unsuspecting immigrants caught in the intricately beautiful and unseemly net of Palimpsest, a city accessible only by dreamers. Infected by other dreamers, the "passport" to Palimpsest appears mysteriously as a segment of the city's map tattooed somewhere on the body, from face to breasts to tongue. But there's a hitch, access to Palimpsest requires an intimate kind of sacrifice, and the more Palimpsest is visited, the more desperate people are to visit. Connected by the rules of Palimpsest which require all immigrants to be psychically shackled into a quarto, Valente's cast of characters negotiate the real world and the world of Palimpsest as they seek, in varying degrees, to understand the mysterious city and their place in it.

Palimpsest is a beautifully written book. I wish I liked it more. I wanted to like it, but there was a disconnect for me between the gorgeous language and the heart of what makes a story work. Palimpsest was a great concept; as Valente presented it, "Palimpsest is an urban fantasy about a city that lives on human skin, a viral city whose citizens consist of those who bear parts of the city on their flesh, and visit it in their dreams. The story follows four such people as they search for others like themselves and a way to enter the city permanently." Unfortunately, trying to find my way through the mysterious intricacies of the city elements prismed through the four different narratives was more challenging than I cared for. There isn't a lot of weight to the story. Nowhere to anchor. Palimpsest read like a lot of sound and fury at times. Noise without meaning, but the sad part is that I think there is meaning there, it's just hard to dig it out. The fractured storytelling left me disinterested over time, I ultimately didn't care very much for any of the characters or the journeys they were on. I was also disinterested in Palimpsest itself. I made it to the Part III: The Princess of Parallelograms (pg 180) before I gave up on the book. Considering that I had hit the half-way mark and my interest was steadily waning, I opted not to continue the book. I skimmed a few pages at the end, but there wasn't anything there to inspire me to try picking up the book again.

This won't be my last foray into her fiction despite my lack of success in finishing. I find Valente to be an incredible, poetic, and singular writer.


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August 2016


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