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by Cherie Priest
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.83
89 used & new from $2.28

5.0 out of 5 stars A macabre masterpiece: One of Priest's finest, September 21, 2014
This review is from: Maplecroft (Paperback)
In 1892 Lisbeth "Lizzie" Borden allegedly picked up an axe and hacked up her father and step-mother. Her trial was an event, a media circus, one of America's first. She spent some time in jail, but was ultimately acquitted of both charges. The motive was supposed to be money, she did inherit a large sum after the dust settled, but even now, nobody really knows what exactly happened.

Lizzie always wanted to be a member of high-society, she bought a giant house on a hill, named it Maplecroft, she tried to host lavish parties, tried to be accepted. Try as she did, the people of Fall River, Massachusetts, never grew to accept Lizzie, and she spent most of the rest of her life in seclusion, caring for her medically frail sister, Emma. Sadly, Lizzie would eventually die alone, abandoned by Emma after an argument of unknown cause. This is the story that is part of America's grimmer history, taught in class-rooms to this day.

The tale of Lizzie Borden has so many unknowns, leaves so many unanswered questions. Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest is the first novel in a series that aims to fill in these blanks, to tell the whole of the life of Lisbeth Andrew Borden.

Maplecroft might be best described as a spectacular work of historical horror fiction; historical people, places, given a heavy dose of horror. Cherie Priest is one of today's best historical fantasy/horror fiction writers, she so deftly blends fiction with American history that the fiction tends to feel more real than it otherwise might. Maplecroft could be her best work.

The story of Maplecroft is told through journal entries, letters and news clippings, all popular forms of communication in the 1800s. Much of what we know about that period of American history is through found documents, people put their thoughts to paper, they kept journals, diaries, sat down to write correspondence. Unlike today's glut of shaky-cam "video diary" films, Maplecroft only feels more authentic through the use of this device. The story never seems forced or cliche.

We learn that strange things are happening in Fall River, that the Borden family spent many weeks wracked with illness before Lizzie took up her axe. We learn that at its worst, aside from nausea, vomiting, a strange glazing of the eyes, a sort of madness occurs, violent madness that touched the Borden parents. When Lizzie took up her axe, it was an act of preservation, not just for herself, but for Emma, her defenseless elder sister. This illness is confirmed in the journal of town physician, Doctor Owen Seabury, who attempted to treat the Borden's, but to no avail. He knew something was very wrong, something he'd never seen. After the murders, he was Lizzie's strongest defender, not because he felt she was necessarily innocent, but because of an incident during which he witnessed the feral transformation in Lizzie's step-mother. He felt something unnatural, even dangerous, especially dangerous. That was in 1892. In 1894, the Borden sisters have taken residence at Maplecroft, with Doctor Seabury as their only regular visitor in the role of Emma's personal physician. With this ominous beginning, the stage is set for the horror to come.

The Problem, as it is often called, re-surfaces and begins to spread, Doctor Seabury sees symptoms around town. Strange shark-like creatures attack Maplecroft, Lizzie grows quite adept at killing. Lizzie and Emma spend their days trying to understand the creatures, The Problem, hopping desperately to stop it before it consumes them, before Fall River is overrun, before it spreads across the entire country, maybe the entire world. Lzzzie pours over strange arcane books, trying to find facts buried in lore and myth. Emma tackles The Problem through pure science, studying nature, marine biology. Both Lizzie and Emma have reason to believe that the sea is the source of the taint that's infecting Fall River. Doctor Owen Seabury struggles to maintain his sanity, his years of medical training feeling utterly useless. Each character's writing feels more desperate with each passing day, the journal and diary entries show their stress, their fear, with such clarity. Reading the book is often an intimate experience, as if reading the private thoughts of actual people, not fictional characters.

I haven't read everything Cherie Priest has ever written, but I've read most of it. In terms of pure craft, Maplecroft is probably her best work so far, her prose often gorgeous. Whenever I read, I love highlighting beautiful passages, writing margin notes. While Priest's stories are always well-written and absolutely a blast to read, I've never highlighted any of her writing until Maplecroft. There's one really outstanding passage that has stuck with me ever since I read it...

"We crawled primordial from the water, our grand-ancestors times a million generations; we escaped the tides, the sharks, and the leviathans of the deep, only to find ourselves on land--where we became the things we'd sought to escape, and we invented gods to blame. Not gods of the ocean, for we'd been to the ocean, and seen that the water was empty of the divine. Not gods of the earth, for we have walked upon the dirt, and we are alone here.

So we install our gods in the sky, because we haven't yet eliminated the firmament as a possibility.

Next, I suppose, we'll send them into space--where I expect they will live a very long time indeed, for it shall take us another million generations of descendants to reach them, and learn that they are projections of light and story, cast into the heavens by us alone. And we will be alone again (unless by then, we discover some more distant place in which to hide our image).
Over and over again, we lift God out of our reach. Over and over, push Him beyond our grasp, yet still we stretch out our fingers and seek to touch Him.

But find nothing."

That passage has such lush imagery, captures the writing of a Christian woman struggling with her faith. Crisis of faith is a common theme from character to character throughout the novel, an interesting theme for a time in history when people were supposed to be God-fearing church-goers, who could never voice their doubts aloud. One's private diary or journal was the only safe place to put such thoughts. The passage also captures the writing of a strong-willed woman of intelligence, again, at a time when women were not on equal footing with men in matters of intellect, of opinion.

The Borden women are both shown as strong women living against the grain, fierce protectors of a town full of people who failed to see Lizzie hanged and now are content to just quietly hate her, and Emma by association. Maplecroft is a novel about strong women (one in particular not mentioned in this review) fighting against evil that's deep and dark as the sea. They fight bravely, vehemently, but not without fear, not without mistakes, not without human failings. It's not a story of super heroes slaughtering monsters, it's a story regular people just trying to hang on against malevolence beyond human understanding. They fight and not without losses, grave losses.

If you're looking for a beautifully written story of horror, genuine stuff of nightmare, Maplecroft is the story for you. Cherie Priest did her homework on Lizzie Borden and the time in which she lived. Combine such research with her vivid imagination, and she delivers a truly unique macabre masterpiece of fully realized characters given weight through historical accuracy.

For fans of the weird, Maplecroft is a must read. I can't wait for the next of the Borden Dispatches.

Acceptance: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy)
Acceptance: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy)
by Jeff VanderMeer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.41
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect end, September 8, 2014
Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer is the final book in The Southern Reach Trilogy, and it's a perfect closing curtain.

Acceptance brings back the intensely ominous feeling introduced in Annihilation, the series' first book, but on a much grander scale. Much of the story takes place in flashbacks, we're taken back to the events that took place before Annihilation, to everything that led up to the disastrous Twelfth Expedition into Area X and the subsequent shifting within the Southern Reach. We also go back to a little place called the Forgotten Coast, a place where misfits, outcasts gathered to make a home. A quaint costal village complete with a lighthouse and its gruff, but kind keeper. A rustic place, but a good place, a nice place to live until something turned it into a nightmare, a biological disaster; Area X. In this final book, by way of glimpses into life on the Forgotten Coast, we see the horrific creation of Area X.

Acceptance begins with the death of a character, a death that occurs toward the end of Annihilation. We learn about her life through flashbacks, yet we also know that she is damned. We know that the Forgotten Coast is damned, that the people we learn about, grow to care about, will be lost. The horror of the book, and really, the trilogy as a whole, is witnessing this slow fall and knowing that no matter what, it won't be stopped. Though, we get to see points at which maybe if different decisions were made, Area X might not have been made. Knowing that so much loss wasn't inevitable, that it could have possibly been avoided, makes the loss that much more painful. We keep reading because we want to know the whats and the whys that birthed Area X, but also, there's still the right now, the world after the creation of Area X. That part of the story is completely uncertain, it's ultimately why I kept turning pages until a late night became an early morning. I wanted to know if our world would survive, or if Area X would envelope everything. I know, but I won't say. I don't want to say more, I don't want to make reading Acceptance pointless while trying to convey why it's so spectacular.

The Southern Reach Trilogy is a masterpiece, it is brilliantly conceived and written. Acceptance is what seals the deal, it's a truly remarkable end to a beautiful, sad, scary as all Hell work of fiction.

Authority: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy Book 2)
Authority: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy Book 2)
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect bridge to the end, June 10, 2014
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Authority by Jeff VanderMeer is the second novel in his Southern Reach Trilogy, the link between beginning and end. Authority takes place not long after the events in Annihilation. The obscure top-secret government agency tasked with monitoring Area X, The Southern Reach, is in a state of chaos. Their body count is high, their funding is spent, their insight into Area X amounts to a little less than nothing. Almost every agent they've sent into Area X has never returned. Almost. Some have returned only to die of a rapidly killing form of cancer, others suffered severe memory loss. The Southern Reach is a ship that needs righted before it sinks. Enter John Rodriguez a.k.a. "Control," a man who's been in the covert-ops game his entire adult life. Control is a "fixer," he's used to being dropped into situations that need corrected, sorting out the Southern Reach isn't his first rodeo, though, it definitely could be his last. People involved with Area X have trouble maintaining a heart-beat.

Authority is a very different novel compared to Annihilation, don't pick it up expecting Annihilation II. While Annihilation showed readers Area X from within, the way it maims, kills, Authority shows readers Area X from the outside, how it destroys the lives of those simply trying to understand what happened, trying to understand how the place even exists. We see this destruction through the eyes of Control, newly assigned as the acting-Director of The Southern Reach. Control is our narrator, he's quick-witted, hard-working, with an amusingly dark sense of humor. It also becomes apparent soon enough that Control is in way over his head. The further he digs into The Southern Reach, Area X, the more he realizes that he is completely lost. He knows only two facts; Area X is lethal, and those who work at The Southern Reach, those with the highest level of clearance with the deepest connection to Area X, they don't get to keep their sanity. With each question answered, Control is punched in the face with ten more. He doesn't have to wonder why his colleagues are ready to bust out butterfly nets. It's not terribly long before Control's ready to grab a net and join in the chase. The story needs its moments of gallows levity, otherwise readers might end up not far off from Control's state-of-mind. The novel is that immersive. As Control loses control of the situation, so does the reader. We feel what he feels, confusion that becomes fear that becomes abject terror. Authority is a psychological horror story, it's about trying to comprehend an evil that's incomprehensible. Area X is an evil that shows no mercy, it only demonstrates death, cold and unwavering.

VanderMeer creates an intense feeling of dread that grows with each turn of the page. We know that something bad is coming, but we don't know what, or when. The novel gives readers fear of something malevolent that destroys one's mind long before one's body. The loss of self is something terrifying, it's a fear that VanderMeer taps into with subtle grace. Authority really showcases Jeff VanderMeer's talent for scaring the Hell out of people, lights on or off. Authority is slower-paced than Annihilation, it's richer in psychological horror, character development, at the sacrifice of action. This isn't a minus, it merely shows VanderMeer's range of craft.

To me, The Southern Reach Trilogy is a literary chess match. With Annihilation, VanderMeer put his pieces on the board with efficiency and speed. With Authority, he methodically arranged his strategy, letting us capture just enough of his pieces to clear the board so he can show us that we've been wrangled into his devastating checkmate, The Southern Reach Trilogy's end, Acceptance.

I totally can't wait to see this thing through.

That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote
That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote
by K. J. Bishop
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly unique, March 8, 2014
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So, to me, story collections are generally hit or miss creatures. You usually get three or four great stories by three or four great writers, some good stories by some very capable writers, then you get dregs. Story collections by a single writer tend to fare better, provided that said writer is good or great in the first place. Great story collections by great writers are definitely rare enough, but they do exist. That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote by K.J. Bishop is one such collection.

If you haven't read K.J. Bishop's novel, The Etched City, and you fancy yourself a fan of Speculative Fiction, well, then you haven't really read the best of Speculative Fiction. I mention The Etched City because, by itself it's an important book, but also, three of the best stories in That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote are set in the world of The Etched City, The Art of Dying, The Love of Beauty, and She Mirrors. If you haven't read The Etched City, I actually recommend skipping those three stories, just set them aside, until you've read the novel that they would eventually become. Bishop wrote two of the short stories before her novel, but I think the short stories are better appreciated after reading the masterwork of which they're a part.

While the three above stories are particularly important to me, because The Etched City is so important to me, they're definitely not the only magic that That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote has to offer, not by a longshot. There's the dark fairytale of Saving the Gleeful Horse, a story in which childrens' games have deadly consequences in unexpected ways, There's We the Enclosed, a story of searching for something lost that reads like a fever dream. The Heart of a Mouse is a post-apocolyptic nightmare, a story of people suddenly transformed into animals struggling to maintain their human minds, it's kind of The Road meets The Tale of Despereaux meets The Rapture gone terribly wrong. Mother's Curtains is a light-hearted look into the world of the absurd, a story of bedroom curtains that feel unloved, curtains that long to live as the masts of a pirate-ship.

It's hard to really pick a favorite, the entire collection is that strong. Each story has a way of sliding into one's mind, always to be remembered in one way or another. One story that struck me in a very personal way was Between the Covers, a story of a writer who lost her connection with her craft after taking on the Devil as her benefactor. Writers have a certain relationship with their words, their stories, Between the Covers depicts that relationship in a uniquely visual way. Honestly, I'd pay full cover value for that story alone. Tales of writers come to ruin always terrify and fascinate me.

A really neat facet of this collection is that in the closing pages Bishop discusses each story, talking about inspiration, points of symbolism, all those little questions you'd like to ask a writer after you've finished reading their work.

That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote is a brilliantly imaginative collection of stories written by an absolutely brilliant writer. K.J. Bishop is someone that doesn't blink into existence every day, her use of craft is something special. She uses words to create life, to create worlds, to create art. K.J. Bishop does things with words that few writers can accomplish. Ultimately, she writes things that are worth reading, which is really all that matters.

Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy)
Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy)
by Jeff VanderMeer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.25
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular, February 13, 2014
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An unknown biological catastrophe claims a chunk of the world, cuts a clear border between the tainted and the untainted. This tainted place is called Area X, named so by an unnamed government, a government not at all above sacrificing lives to unlock the mystery that is Area X. This government charges a cloak and dagger agency, The Southern Reach, with the handling of Area X, infiltration; training personnel to cross the border and study Area X.

The very first team reported a place once inhabited by people living in modest homes, a lighthouse off the coast, then, somehow, nature took it all back. Life became death, grass, vines, spread over the homes, forests grew thick, marshlands swelled, the people apparently swallowed by nature growing unabated. Loss of life aside, the early reports described Area X as beautiful, peaceful, pure. This picture didn't last long. Then came the mass suicide of one team, another self-destructed in a hail of gunfire, blasting each other to fleshy mounds of former colleagues. The eleventh expedition came home, only to die of a very rapid terminal cancer. Despite the early reports, Area X is dangerous, its beauty, false. Answers, however, are more important than lives, The Southern Reach is willing to spill as much blood as necessary in order to know what they need to know.

Enter the twelfth team, four women; a surveyor, a psychologist, a biologist, and an anthropologist. Teams are chosen by various statistics, skill-sets and variables known only by The Southern Reach. Team twelve is tasked to study Area X, and each other. Any member who might behave oddly or appear "changed" by Area X is to be shot on sight, lest the mission as a whole be compromised.

Thus, the stage is set for Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, Book 1 of the Southern Reach Trilogy.

The novel is narrated by the biologist, teams leave their names and lives behind. It's much easier to remain impartial to each other if everything is impersonal. It's also easier to shoot a "changed" colleague in the face if they don't have a name, or a story. The biologist is a flawed character, a woman more comfortable around frogs and dragonflies than people and their conversations and desire for closeness. Yet, through her story, her struggles, we do care about this detached woman of science. This is part of VanderMeer's skill, he makes us care about characters whose general lives are incomprehensible, as there's always still some relatable spark in them.

Immediately, VanderMeer sets a tone of dread, we're told early that members of the team will die, one very quickly. From the start, we know the mission is damned, there's no heroic happy ending. We don't know the hows, we only know that the biologist is looking back from the ruins of a wrecked ship. We read, desperately at times, because we want to know the hows, and more urgently, the whys. Why does The Southern Reach send people to Area X like cattle to a killing floor? Why is such a beautiful place so full of death? So many whys, but I won't reveal them here. There's also a what, a most important what. What ultimately becomes of the biologist? We don't want Area X to claim her, but there's a constant fear that in her final sentence, it will.

VanderMeer uses perfect words to paint images of gorgeous landscapes, macabre dark, hidden places, and images of death and decay that will disturb readers long after the final page is turned. His use of descriptive imagery, quick plotting, and rich character development is spot-on, perhaps the best balance he has ever struck.

Annihilation is a short, fast-paced novel that is really the beginning of a much deeper narrative. For those who have never read Jeff VanderMeer this novel is a perfect introduction, and for those who have, his brilliance will only be further demonstrated.

Buy Annihilation, it absolutely won't disappoint, and I'm sure the rest of the trilogy will be just as spectacular.

The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart
The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart
by Jesse Bullington
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.84
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly worth the read, December 20, 2010
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The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington is hard to classify, but I'll call it dark historical fantasy. The story takes place in medieval Europe and follows the ignominious lives of Hegal and Manfried Grossbart, twin brothers, grave robbers, murderous bastards. Hagel and Manfried begin the novel with one goal, journeying from their European homeland to "Gyptland." Being grave robbers, they see Egypt as their very own promised land, an entire country of graves and tombs loaded with riches almost too numerous to even imagine. Their journey will have them cross paths with witches, monsters, demons, mad clergy, royalty, and they'll murder lots, and lots of innocent people before they reach their end.

I'll be honest, I didn't like this book until I actually finished it. The Grossbarts are simply not likable characters, at all. They're evil, they murder women, children, anyone who gets in their way, and they're really successful at their evil. It's not the evil that bothers me, it's that the Grossbarts are not smart men, they're lucky. It's not that the Grossbarts are brilliant, it's that everyone trying to thwart them just isn't that bright. The Grossbarts aren't Richard III, or Iago, they're just really paranoid with a kill first, ask questions never sort of attitude. When everyone else is screwing up, it's hard to feel anything but angry at the evil being perpetrated. I so wanted one person to smarten up and take the Grossbarts' heads. Intelligent evil is, at least for me, fun to read, and it's completely satisfying when that evil is at long last destroyed. When Hegal and Manfried finally bit it (their demise is revealed early in the novel), I was all, "Finally! Thank you!" I was relieved more than satisfied. Still, as negative as that sounds, I really enjoyed this book when all was said and done. The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart is epic in scope, by the end I definitely felt like I'd been on a journey. I'm not at all sorry I read it, it just wasn't at all what expected.

The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John, Vol. 1
The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John, Vol. 1
by Catherynne M. Valente
Edition: Paperback
43 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly beautiful, November 14, 2010
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The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John, Volume One by Catherynne M. Valente is her latest work and her addition to the legend of Prester John. Talet of Prester John aren't new, they began in 12th century Europe, but Valente's take on him is definitely unique. The basic story, told for centuries, is that John was a Christian fellow who went East to convert millions and become ruler over vast and beautiful, and even magical lands. Within his kingdom one could find the Fountain of Youth, and countless wonders. Valente takes the basic framework of the Prester John legend and makes it her own.

When I picked up Habitation, I really had no idea what I was getting into. I just saw that Catherynne M. Valente published something new and I slammed my money down. Her books have never left me disappointed, and her latest is really no exception. I don't want to give too much about the story, I don't want to rob anyone of that sense of discovery that I experienced. The book is really home to four stories told by four characters, these stories brilliantly intersect and ultimately tie together to create a lush and fully-realized world. As always, Valente's use of language is gorgeous, she arranges words into sentences, into paragraphs that create life. Early on, the reader knows that the world they're immersed in is tumbling toward something bad, the "what" isn't clear, but it's clearly coming. This sets a sense of foreboding, it causes one to want to turn the page, and turn the page, and turn the page until the last page, the last revelation. There's this shadow over everything, beautiful scenes take on an ominous feeling, because that fall is coming, it's so right there. This book is haunting, I still think about the end, it tells a story that stays. Let it visit and stay with you.

The 12 Burning Wheels
The 12 Burning Wheels
Price: $3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A solid collection, May 2, 2010
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So, I recently read 12 Burning Wheels, a collection of twelve "micro stories" by Cesar Torres. 12 Burning Wheels is sort of a concept book, not a typical collection of short stories. It's a book that started as a not-so simple simple challenge. Torres challenged himself to write twelve stories, stories around a thousand words each, in twelve days. The result of this personal challenge ended up being a rather solid collection of micro fiction.

12 Burning Wheels equates to eighty-two pages of engaging fiction. I consider it a collection of magic realism, stories in which people drive cars, slurp Big Gulps, ride L trains, then pop into local pawn shops to pick up magical scrying devices. Stories in which magicians are dubbed "aura technologists" and featured in People Magazine. Stories in which an iPhone app can interpret dreams and foretell one's future. Magic is a part of every-day life in these stories, it's just a fact. I always love fiction in which typical human experience is infused with magic, where working love potions can be purchased alongside Mountain Dew. 12 Burning Wheels tells these sorts of stories.

A few of the tales in 12 Burning Wheels don't feel like standalone pieces of micro fiction, they're more like reading excerpts from much larger pieces of work. I found their abrupt endings to be a little jarring. I'm of the thought that micro fiction or flash fiction, no matter of short, should still tell a complete story. I felt this in only three of Torres' twelve stories, and even so, I enjoyed the three stories quite a lot. Tores' prose are lush and delightful to read, 12 Burning Wheels is a collection I definitely recommend.

by Catherynne M. Valente
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.96
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, March 30, 2009
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This review is from: Palimpsest (Paperback)
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente tells the story of four lost and lonely travelers as they journey to a strange and beautiful city, a city that exists beyond the veil of dreams. Imagine a place of surreal delights, of bizarre masquerade balls and holy churches in which odd creatures worship in utter silence. This is Palimpsest, a city that is neither dream nor reality for those who stumble into its borders. Of course, to visit isn't enough, never enough. Visitors long for residency, they desire to make Palimpsest their reality. Such desires, however, come at a cost.

For reasons we don't early know, people exist in our world who bear marks on their skin, black tattoos that appear to be pieces of an otherworldly map. These people are gateways to Palimpsest, to enter involves sex and the heavy sleep after orgasm. Those who sleep after climax in our world wake to wander the streets of Palimpsest, the part of the map on their partner's body, except in the case of first time visitors. First timers are required to visit a certain fortune-teller, a woman with the head of a frog. She sees clients only in groups of four, these four are then bound together, a family of sorts. Whenever in Palimpsest, no matter how far apart, these four strangers intimately share each other's experiences. They taste the same tastes, they feel each other's pleasure and pain. When morning comes to Palimpsest, visitors then wake in our world. New-comers also wake with a mark of their own, a new gateway to this gorgeous and sometimes cruel city. Permanent residence is elusive, but not impossible. The novel follows four characters who have lost something in our world and desperately hope to find it in Palimpsest.

Valente has created something absolutely brilliant in Palimpsest. Her decadent use of language brings so much life into a world that few have the skill to even imagine, let alone write into existence. To me, Palimpsest is an intricate metaphor for the nature of sex and relationships. Unlike any liquor, any drug, sex can take a person completely outside of their reality. In one sense, sex can be a hollow, empty act, a temporary escape from one's broken life. Yet, in another sense, sex with the right person can be a perfect sacrament. Two people inside one another creating a world of their own. Sex doesn't have to be about running away from something awful, it can be about moving toward something amazing. Sex with the right person can feel like going home after being caught in a terrible storm. Palimpsest explores these ideas with lush prose and haunting imagery. Cat Valente is definitely a singular talent at the top of her game.

Whitechapel Gods
Whitechapel Gods
by S. M. Peters
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.22
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent atmosphere, wasted potential, May 17, 2008
I recently finished reading Whitechapel Gods, a decently entertaining fantasy novel with a hint of fabulism. Victorian London's Whitechapel district is tormented by not the Ripper, but rather two mechanical Gods, Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock. After coming to existence on earth, which is never fully explained, we just have to accept it, Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock seal Whitechapel off from the rest of the world making it a soot-filled mechanized nightmare. The sky is hidden by a vast canopy of steel, and monolithic metal towers loom haphazardly, casting ominous shadows over everything. The air in Whitechapel is thick with factory smoke, barely battled by dimly lit street lamps. Some citizens voluntarily give up their bodies and souls to the Gods. Their hearts are replaced with coal-burning furnaces, their limbs torn off and replaced with mechanical facsimiles. Other citizens are afflicted with "the clacks," a disease in which mechanical parts grow spontaneously from human tissue, usually resulting in death. The book does an amazing job of creating a dark and truly claustrophobic atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the story itself isn't anything spectacular, even a little muddled at times. A group of rebels banding together against impossible odds to topple their malevolent oppressors, we've read it before. The book's characters are a little flat and not particularly engaging. While definitely a fairly fun read, I see Whitechapel Gods as a great deal of wasted potential.

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