In Valente's third book, after her well-received Orphan's Tales duology, authorial quirks -- which were one
of the strengths in her prior work -- become detriments. What plot there is is obscured by opaque prose and overly florid descriptions, and the four protagonists are all curiously self-centered and unsympathetic.
Four strangers are pulled into the surreal dream city of Palimpsest and bound together before being separated again.
Repeat passage to the city is bought with casual sexual interaction found via word of mouth or in specified locations. They each have something they're looking for -- a lover, a sister, a spouse, a purpose -- and they come to the ghost kingdom of trains, mechanical cockroaches and lion-headed humanoids in search of it. What they find in Palimpsest is beyond their imagining. (BANTAM SPECTRA, Mar., 372 pp., $14.00)