Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Palimpsest" by Catherynne M. Valente

I'm not one for abbreviations, but:

O. M. G.

I was blown away by this book. That... doesn't usually happen. Even when books have big guns and stuff.

I didn't really know what Palimpsest was about when I was going into it, and I still have to say that the edges and borders are (appropriately) fuzzy. I guess I'd say that Palimpsest is part urban fantasy, part "mythpunk," part steampunk, and part literary darkness. Overall, I'm going to slam this home into the New Weird.

Yeah, yeah, people don't like that - so I've heard. But I do; at least, I only put things among the halls of the New Weird if I think they are sufficiently both:

• new, and
• weird.

I consider this a rough defintion for What-Is-Awesome-About-Being-Alive.

Valente's prose - or prose-poetry - or proetry - or poesy? - makes Palimpsest come alive. The images she conjures are insane. I was pretty certain, by the end, that she is a word-wizard.

There was a moment near the end when I thought Valente was going to do something that would possibly have shattered my soul; however, the opposite to my expectations ended up occurring, instead. At first, I felt like this move was slightly less than "realistic" and possibly a "cop out," but I came to appreciate it as I read the book and understood my own emotions vis-à-vis the outcome. Although the move I expected is exactly what I would have written before I read Palimpsest, I now see that there is such a thing as something costing too much in fiction; and if that happens, the story - no matter how realistic, well-reasoned, or fair - loses its heart.

Anyway, there's not a lot I can say exactly about Palimpsest, other than that, if you haven't read it, you ought to. It's fantastic; and it's fantastic in no small part because it really, truly made me care about the characters - which, despite the fact that I read nearly exclusively genre fiction these days, is, I think, one of the greatest problems with many genre works.

And Valente ain't got it.

...the problem. That's to say.

-bn

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