‘It's been a long time coming. It's going to be a long time gone’. This lyric sums up my experience with Palimpsist. I can’t remember the last time a read a book that actually seemed to fight for its ambiguity. I have been reading fantasy and such for many, many years and this book takes license with time and space in ways that to me are almost incomprehensible.
First, the writer is clearly a poet and applies this to the prose structure. Her world building skills are such that I found myself dreaming of the city of Palimpsest and its’ denizens, human and otherwise. So why was it so hard to get into this story? For me, in the beginning, I could not call up much sympathy for the four would be immigrants. They all seemed bent on some self-destructive path not unlike addiction and I think this point has already been brought up. Palimpsest itself seemed to alternate between wicked, charming, cruel and sympathetic. While it is surely true that cities in the real world exhibit all these characteristics and more, it is also true, for me at least that I had a hard time imagining the seductive power that the city held over the protagonists. For at least half of the book I staggered a long trying to piece things together and then suddenly everything fell into place and I was caught in a race for salvation, for both the four who seek entry and the city itself.
Now that I am finished, images and possibilities crowd my consciousness and I know I will be rereading this book soon to see if there are mysteries I missed that first time around.
Last comments, much has been made of the sexual nature of this book. From the first page I had my own take on that. Like the mystics say, great debasement brings great enlightenment. Also, the story of November and her place in the wars of Palimpsest, her reationship with Casimira and the final place as queen of the bees was a truly great invention. Four stars.