Palimpsest (novel)

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Palimpsest cover byCatherynneValente.gif
Cover of the first edition of Palimpsest
AuthorCatherynne M. Valente
CountryUnited States
GenreFiction, Novel
PublisherBantam Spectra
Publication date
March 2009
Media typePrint (Paperback)
PagesApprox. 367 pages
ISBN978-0-553-38576-2 (pbk.)
813/.6 22
LC ClassPS3622.A4258 P36 2009

Palimpsest is a novel by Catherynne M. Valente, published in March 2009. It follows four separate characters as they discover and explore a mysterious city accessed only at night.

In an interview with Terri Windling at Fantasy Book Critic, Valente describes the book: "Palimpsest is an urban fantasy about a city that lives on human skin, a viral city whose citizens consist of those who bear parts of the city on their flesh, and visit it in their dreams. The story follows four such people as they search for others like themselves and a way to enter the city permanently."[1]


The novel follows four travelers: Oleg, a New York City locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They have all lost something important in their life: a wife, lover, sister, or direction. They find themselves in Palimpsest after each spend a night with a stranger who has a tattooed map of a section of the city on his or her body.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making[edit]

During the course of the novel, November recalls a favorite book of hers as a child. This book, which is only mentioned briefly in Palimpsest, was turned into a full-length novel in 2009. Valente wrote The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making as a crowd-funded project; in October 2009, she announced that it, as well as a sequel, had been picked up by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers.[2]


Annalee Newitz of io9 stated that the author has created a novel where "... the clotted-cream style of the prose reflects the baroque landscapes she evokes in her imaginary city, and in the collapsing psychologies of her main characters. In many ways this is a book about transcendence, about finding a spiritual realm even in the most ordinary and debased activities. But it is also a novel quite simply about debasement."[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

Palimpsest won the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT SF/Fantasy/Horror [4] and was a finalist for the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Novel.[5]


  1. ^ Windling, Terri. "Interview with Catherynne M. Valente.", Fantasy Book Critic, November 2, 2007. Retrieved 08-27-2009.
  2. ^ Catherynne M Valente - All Things Fairyland. [1]. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
  3. ^ Newitz, Annalee. "Palimpsest Explores a Sexually Transmitted City, io9, June 17, 2009. Retrieved 08-27-2009.
  4. ^ "2010 Lambda Literary Finalists & Winners". Lambda Literary Awards. May 2010. Archived from the original on August 17, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  5. ^ "The 2010 Hugo and John W. Campbell Award Nominees". AussieCon 4. April 4, 2010. Retrieved April 4, 2010.

External links[edit]