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Publisher's Summary

Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse - a voyage permitted only to those who’ve always believed there’s another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night.

To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important -- a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.

©2010 Catherynne M. Valente (P)2010 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Outstandingly beautiful prose.” ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing as always!

I absolutely love Valente's work. I've listened to the fairy land series and six gun snow white. I didn't expect to love this book as much as I did, totally devoured it, couldn't turn it off. Makes me think of "fairy land come of age"
Fantastic performance by the reader.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • 4thace
  • Northern California
  • 07-07-18

Beautifully written and enigmatic

I used to wonder whether a person could write a novel by writing fabulous scenes full of detail and wonder, and just stringing them together like beads on a string with whatever you would need to make them semi-coherent. Now I think I know. This is a story which takes place in two worlds, our own and in the dream world of the city-state Palimpsest, and the four main characters who can travel back and forth do so by means of sex with a fellow traveler. It is confusing at first for the listener to know that the character you have just been introduced to in one setting has just gone to a completely different one with different kinds of logic governing how things work and how people think, and more than enough work to try to keep them straight without being burdened with a strong plot driving what is happening. Instead, the yearnings and fears of the characters are the main force behind what happens. There are scenes of what seems like depravity and others straight out of fairy tales frequently alluded to explicitly, and the people who the core four encounter are endowed with their own motivations which you can start to suspect or to trust, and later revise your intuitions about, but it doesn't seem like in the end there is a clear sequence of one thing leading to another and culminating in the outcome we end up with. Fortunately the author is well equipped to provide compelling images draped with sumptuous language to make the whole thing a mostly pleasant experience. I am hazy on what exactly happened, but I have arrived at a state where I don't much care about the facts stated. It's not that kind of book. The four characters, two male and two female, each have motivations to return to Palimpsest and come to an awareness that they need to do this together if they do it at all. The title is not an accident, because the idea of a scroll which is erased and written over translates into the sexually transmitted tattoos which each traveler accumulates with each linkup, as well as the idea of the reality of the city itself being eradicated and rewritten over all time. Just as a familiar section of a city can fall into ruin, the characters undergo horrific mutilations and sometimes commit them as well. Maybe there are happy well-adjusted people in this world, but I don't remember hearing about any. So if you are in the mood for a portal fantasy with elements of the weird and macabre, this could be the story for you. I've reviewed some other books with the same level of experimentation going on before and I think this one feel more successful than most from my vantage point, perhaps not from everyone else's. It's put a couple of writing ideas in my mind too, so I wouldn't rule out someday coming up with my own beads on a chain fiction.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The accents bring the reading to life

The narrator has the most lovely and soothing voice. Her pacing and astonishing skill with accents makes this recording a joy to experience. She is so deft with the subtle flavorings in each nation's speech that the listener can readily associate all the cultural context that really brings this story meaning.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 08-09-15

Excellent Prose, but lacks maturity

I enjoyed the language, imagery, characterization and flow of this book, yet it also continually seemed to me written for a young adult audience. Perhaps when I was a much younger self I would have found the eroticism titillating, shocking, and discomforting in turns, however at my age and experience, I found sexual content rather bland. I much preferred the author’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which had a much better balance.

There is a lot to like in this novel as it tries to create a world of fascinating mystery and dreamlike imagery, and it often does, but for me the spell was repeatedly broken, making the overall experience less than fully satisfying.

There is a significant amount of sexual content and situations that are rather mild, yet would be quite offensive to many, and would be inappropriate for younger readers.

The narration was excellent throughout.

8 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting story.

Palimpsest is a unique story (or at least I've never read anything like it before). It's about a city who's maps are written in pieces on the skin of those in our real world. You can only get to Palimpsest by porking someone with a map on their body (like a tattoo).

The story is surreal, being divided between the real world and the world of Palimpsest. The first half of a chapter typically takes place in the real world and then we move to Palimpsest for the second half.

The four characters vary in terms of their quality. The audiobook version has a character who is very well read by the performer and also a character who has an insufferable accent which makes him almost unbearable.

If you want to check out a surreal work of fantasy with elements of horror, eroticism, and a general urban flair, you might enjoy this one.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A Book That's a Natural for Audio

Would you consider the audio edition of Palimpsest to be better than the print version?

I don't know if I'd call it "better," but it feels right. The book demands to be read aloud, so experiencing it as an audiobook is natural.

What other book might you compare Palimpsest to and why?

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Could not even finish

I listen to this for close two 2 hours and it makes no sense I finally gave up and started listening to something else talk about a weird book. I just don't get this book. wasted my money cause I bought this one without a credit.

3 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

not erotic

What disappointed you about Palimpsest?

It was hard to follow.
There is no erotic atmosphere.

Would you ever listen to anything by Catherynne M. Valente again?

probably not

Any additional comments?

It is poetic, no doubt, but there seems to be no real Story. I stopped listening after 2 hours. I think by that time one should be into a book. If not, I do not torture myself.

1 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Overly wordy

Wow, I loathed this one. Despite having my favorite narrator Aasne, this novel was simply too wordy and too fantastic to be believed. I was disappointed. The plot synopsis was intriguing but don't be fooled. The writing was very affected and irksome.

1 of 9 people found this review helpful