Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn. Book review

DOWNSIDE GIRLS by Jaine Fenn, Monico/Clarion Publishing, ebook £2,99, p/b £5.99, http://www.clarionpublishing.com/

Reviewed by Glen Mehn

‘Downside Girls’ is a series of four interconnected stories, all taking place in the far future world of Khesh City – a city divided into the haves and have nots: Topside and Downside.

I hadn’t read any of Fenn’s stories before this collection, and now I feel fortunate that I’ll have a chance to read more stories in this world without delay.

Khesh City is a floating city. The haves live Topside; the have-nots live Downside. The city floats above an uninhabitable planet – drop something, it goes into the Undertow – the gravity well of the planet below. Gravity itself is almost one of the characters: It operates differently in different places, particularly if you’re clinging to the bottom of the world.

Khesh is also a democracy with one essential law: citizens can vote for who the Angels will kill, for whatever reason. Angels are drawn from the ranks of Downsiders, given personal control over gravity and the power to hunt, to kill, to avenge.

The four stories in the collection contain breathing characters who grab you and force you to pay attention: these are stories of humans interacting with Angels and the impact that these interactions have on both sides.

The stories are hard to talk about without spoilers, but there’s a story of revenge, a story of desperation, a fair warning against meddling, and a deeply personal story of personal horror and redemption. The stories all have to do with each other, as well as with Fenn’s standalone novels.

They come highly recommended – they’re beautiful in emotion along with the action-fueled pace you’d expect from someone like Chuck Wendig.