Last fall and winter, I took a long hiatus from blogging. Balancing a new job, grad school, and my blog was just too much, and I returned to a more normal blogging routine this spring. During my hiatus, I read a lot of books that I didn’t get a chance to fully review. As such, I am writing a series of mini-reviews of the books that I read during that time. Many of them were amazing, and I want to be able to feature them on my blog even though it’s been a while since I’ve read them.
One of my favorite books that I read during my hiatus was Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn. I received an electronic copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Downside Girls is a collection of four short stories set in the floating city of Kesh. Kesh has a social class structure that is reinforced by biology. Because of the planet’s gravity, the poorer Downsiders must live on the bottom of the city and make their living a scavengers. The people who live Topside can afford the technological adaptations that allow them to walk on the city’s surface. There’s only one way for a Downside girl to move Topside, and that is to be chosen as an Angel. In order to prevent political corruption, the Topsiders have instituted a form of democracy where the voice of the people can cause a leader to be assassinated, a task which is carried out by the Angels, an elite class of assassins specially recruited from Downside, who are simultaneously respected and feared.
Fenn’s stories describe these class relations and make a powerful statement about extreme inequality. It is a timely message in today’s economic climate. One of the greatest things about science fiction is its ability to reveal truths about our own society, while at the same time telling a damn good story. This collection is a perfect example, and I’d highly recommend it.