martes, 16 de octubre de 2012

Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)
  
Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Angel by Judas Priest (Spotify, Youtube)

I became interested in Jaine Fenn's work a few years ago, when looking for new Space Operas to read. However, the designs of The Pile are inscrutable and I never got to read any of her books. A few weeks ago, I entered a giveaway and was lucky enough to win Downside Girls, Fenn's collection of short stories. I started reading it immediately, finished it in just two sittings and enjoyed it immensely.

I think that the best way of describing the first three stories ("Collateral Damage", "Death on Elsewhere Street" and "Angel Dust") of the collection is: Frank Miller's Sin City with technologically-superpowered assassins. The stories are told in first person in a cold and detached style that perfectly suits their noir tone. Also, many of the main protagonists are strong female characters and there are some scenes of raw violence:
Then my knife is in his eye. Someone told me that once: on an incapacitated foe, go for the eye. A sure killer with a thin blade, and less messy than the throat.
Even the description of the Angels (more on this later) reminds me of Sin City's fantastic black and white illustrations with those occasional and striking spots of color:
A woman resting on the wind, white hair and blood-red cloak whipping out behind her. Her expression was serene and distant. She was so impossible, so beautiful, that I just stopped talking and stared.
But Fenn's stories are much more than just striking images. On Downside Girls I found one of the most of the most fascinating (and over the top) concepts I've read about lately: Democracy by assassination. The citizens of Kesh can vote for those politicians that fail in their public service to get killed. The mysterious Angels, technologically enhanced women that are almost religiously revered, are in charge of executing these death penalties. This peculiar society is explored in more depth in Fenn's Principles of Angels, a novel that I'm certainly looking forward to reading.  

These three stories of Downside Girls focus on three different characters: an Angel on her first mission, a witness of one of the Angel's killings and a girl that gets involved in a gang fight. Through them, the reader gets glimpses of Kesh City, with partial images and fragments that complement each other. I think that an interesting addition to this mosaic would be a story told from the point of view of one of the victims of the Angels. I hope we can read something like that in the future.

The last story of the collection, "The Three Tentations of Larnia Mier", is also located in Kesh City but, in this case, we find a more intimate tale, an exploration of the nature of religion, belief and self-delusion. Another excellent short story which shows Fenn's versatility.

All in all, Downside Girls is a very good collection of short fiction and I highly recommend it. It was a wonderful introduction to Jaine Fenn's work and I'll try to read her novels as soon as I can.

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