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Palimpsestby Catherynne M. Valente
Synopses & Reviews
Sic Transit Tokyo
Sei pressed her cheek against the cold glass; strips of black mountains tore by under lantern-blue clouds beyond her wide window. She knew a man was watching her--the way men on trains always watched her. The train car rocked gently from side to side, hushing its charges like a worried mother. She chewed on the ends of her dark blue hair. A stupid childhood habit, but Sei couldn't let it go. She let the wet curl fall back against her bare shoulder blades. She stroked the glass with her fingertips, shifted her hips against the white of the carriage--she was always moved to do this on the long-distance trains which crisscrossed the islands like corset stays. They were so pale and pure and unfathomably fast, like iridescent snakes hissing down to the sea. The Shinkansen was always pristine, always perfect, its aim always true.
Sei's skin prickled as the man's eyes slid over her back. She felt their cold black weight, shifting her shoulders to bear up under it. He would be watching the small of her back now, where her silver-black shirt fell away into a mess of carefully arranged silk ropes and tin chains. He would watch her angles under the strings, the crease of her legs beneath an immodest skirt, her lips moving against the glass. The little wet fog of her breath. She could almost tell what he looked like without turning her head: good black suit, a little too small, clutching his briefcase like a talisman, probably a little gray at the temples, no rings on his hands. They all looked like that.
Sei turned, her blue hair brushing her hipbones. Good black suit, a little too small, clutched briefcase, freckles of gray in the hair. No rings. He did not seem startled or doubled over with desire as they sometimes were. He was calm, his answering smile measured and almost sweet, like a photograph of a soldier lost in a long-ago war. Coolly, without taking his dark eyes from hers, he turned over his left palm and rested it on the creamy brown edge of his briefcase.
His hand was covered in a mark she first thought horrible--it snaked and snarled, black and swollen, where fortune-teller's lines ought to have been. Like a spider it sent long web-spokes out from a circle in the center, shooting towards the pads of his fingers and burrowing into the tiny webbing of skin between them. She took a step forward, balancing expertly as the car sped on, and stared. It was something like a little map, drawn there by an inartful and savage hand. She could make out minuscule lettering along the inky corridors: street names she could hardly read. There seemed even to be an arcane compass near his thumb. As she leaned in, the man shut his fist.
Sato Kenji, he said, his voice neither high nor low, but cultured, clipped, quiet.
He quirked an eyebrow briefly, slightly, in such a way that no one afterwards might be able to safely accuse him of having done it. Sei knew the look. Names are meaningless, plosives and breath, but those who liked the slope of her waist often made much of hers, which denoted purity, clarity--as though it had any more in the way of depth than others. They wondered, all of them, if she really was pure, as pure as her name announced her to be, all white banners and hymeneal grace.
She balanced one hand--many-ringed--on her hip and jerked her head i
The lives of four strangers--a locksmith, a bookbinder, a lost girl, and a beekeeper--linked by an enigmatic tattoo intertwine as they search for their shared destiny during nighttime visits to the fantastical and hallucinogenic city of Palimpsest, a world visited only in dreams. Original. 22,500 first printing.
Catherynne M Valente's Palimpsest just knocks me flat with her use of language: rich, cool, opiated language, language for stories of strange love and hallucinated cities of the mind. — Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropolitan
Palimpsest is an elegant and evocative story set in a gorgeous alien wonderland. — Elizabeth Bear, author of Hammered
Gorgeously written and deliriously imaginative, Palimpsest is the book for those who love old maps and grow wistful at the sound of a night train. A modern masterpiece in Valente's unique voice and singular sensibility.--Ekaterina Sedia, author of The Alchemy of Stone
Catherynne Valente has once again proved her mastery of the fantastic. Full to the brim with beautiful images and gorgeous prose, Palimpsest belongs on the same shelf with Calvino's Invisible Cities and Winterson's T
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