Reviewed by Jamie Marriage

It’s a challenge to compress action and story into short fiction; but Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn has both in spades.

A collection of four stories, Downside Girls carries the narrative of four separate female protagonists living very different lives that are somehow intertwined by the Angels that soar above them all. Not Angels in the traditional sense – there are no feathered wings to be found, nor are they embodiments of peace.  In Fenn’s Cyberpunk dystopia, Angels are young women enhanced with lethal weaponry used as a form of corruption control overseen by the citizens of the City for removing public figures when the public has had enough of their abuse.

The first three tales are heavily linked in their content and atmosphere. Each is concerned with the actions of the Angels and their relationship to the city, either primarily in the case of the Collateral Damage, or in a secondary capacity as with Death on Elsewhere Street and Angel Dust. Violence pervades these initial tales, each drop of blood spilt, a vital scratch of the pen in making this world whole. The other element that binds these first three pieces together is the feeling of survival; the characters are real in their emotions  and their relationship to the world around them. This new Earth is as dangerous and cunning as the old one, and as a result the fight for survival is just as vicious.

The fourth tale is very different from the rest; which is odd in itself because it takes place in the same world, with the same
overall influences, but at the same time inhabits a completely different emotional state.

This fourth piece, The Three Temptations of Larnia Mier, is a haunting gaze into the mind of a woman placing faith above all aspects of a world that has already passed her by, even if that means giving up the one thing that she treasures.

Downside Girls is a great little book that can be read straight through in a couple of hours, or paced over one tale at a time. Whichever way it’s tackled, Fenn has produced a collection well worth picking up.

BIO:

Jaine Fenn is a British science fiction author. Fenn studied Linguistics and Astronomy at the University of Hertfordshire, where she became the president of PSiFA from 1984-1985.

While I was housekeeping some files tonight I revisited the beautiful images Anna Repp created for my collection of interlocked stories, Glitter Rose, published by Twelfth Planet Press. I though it would be nice to share with you some of the pictures she sketched that didn’t make it into the book (only because we couldn’t afford all the colour). I love them!

  

The first two show the main character, Tinashi, on the verandah of her beach shack, sipping pink champagne. In the third she is absent but her glass is there.

Below is the cover we eventually chose, and you can see the glittering colour in the sand.

If you’re not familiar with the collection, here are some review snippets that will give you an idea.

Domestic Extremist reflects on Glitter Rose.  ”Marianne de Pierres, Glitter Rose, 2010
I picked this up in Sydney’s Galaxy Bookshop and spent a very relaxed 50th birthday reading it. There are four linked short stories about a small, imaginary Australian island which has been colonised by strange spores from the ocean deeps, organisms that can bathe the beach in a pink light, create giant sandcastles that are impervious to water and subtly alter the bodies and minds of the infected island residents. There’s a small ensemble cast of characters (reminding me often of The Last Tobacco Shop in the World) in which a new arrival to the island is constantly out of her depth and learning the hard way, plus there are deaths and strange goings on of a mystical and earthy nature. De Pierres was clearly inspired by J.G. Ballard’s Vermillion Sands and these tales share a Ballardian atmosphere of languorous decay; undoubtedly the best story is ‘Mama Ailon’, a deftly composed tale about a strangely cathartic birth which brings the stories to a kind of conclusion – in her notes De Pierres says this story cycle is probably complete, but no – she absolutely must write more of these, and I must read more from her.”

“Strange, deep, haunting … the stories in Glitter Rose will challenge you, and you may find some of the remarkable and vivid imagery creeping into your subconscious. I definitely recommend this worthwhile collection. Just be aware that these may look simple, but they’re not casual reading. You’ll need to bring something to the table, too.” Geek Speak Magazine

Glitter Rose has its own website. You can explore more about it there.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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