From Publishers Weekly
Four strangers are bound together in adventure, love and occasional sorrow in this parable from Tiptree winner Valente (The Orphan's Tales
). The city of Palimpsest exists somewhere outside our reality, accessible only during the sleep that follows sex. The immigrants to Palimpsest, marked forever by the tattoo-like impression of a map on their skin, seek out one another for real-world sexual adventures that function as passports to new otherworldly quarters. In outstandingly beautiful prose, Valente describes grotesque, glamorous creatures sometimes neither human nor animal, alive nor dead, and mortal travelers who pursue poignant personal quests to replace the things (and people) they've lost. Valente's fondness for digression at times makes for a difficult read, and her fable of quest and loneliness is less an engrossing fairy tale and more a meticulous travelogue of a stranger's dream. (Feb.)
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Everyone lucky or doomed enough to go to Palimpsest, a city visited only in dreams, awakes bearing a tattooed map of its neighborhoods. Each of four travelers linked by ink stains in a frog-headed fortune-teller’s shop finds an unimaginable fate in the city, such that waking life becomes a search for readmission to Palimpsest. Sei dreams of trains, November of mechanical bees, Ludovico of the unwritten etymology of the city, and Oleg of his drowned sister. Palimpsest becomes what each most desires in ways only a city of sentient trains, mechanical insects, and shark-headed generals could. History unfolds as the four learn the ways of Palimpsest and discover the price of becoming more than tourists. Each has found something he or she lost in the waking world that is reimagined in the ways of Palimpsest, and nearly everyone who goes there yearns to emigrate. Overflowing with poetic images and epic repetition, Valente’s story washes us to an unexpected shore. --Regina Schroeder