Sunday, October 23, 2011
Review: Low Town by Daniel Polanksy
Description: In the forgotten back alleys and flophouses that lie in the shadows of Rigus, the finest city of the Thirteen Lands, you will find Low Town. It is an ugly place, and its champion is an ugly man. Disgraced intelligence agent. Forgotten war hero. Independent drug dealer. After a fall from grace five years ago, a man known as the Warden leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs. Every day is a constant hustle to find new customers and protect his turf from low-life competition like Tancred the Harelip and Ling Chi, the enigmatic crime lord of the heathens.
The Warden’s life of drugged iniquity is shaken by his discovery of a murdered child down a dead-end street . . . setting him on a collision course with the life he left behind. As a former agent with Black House—the secret police—he knows better than anyone that murder in Low Town is an everyday thing, the kind of crime that doesn’t get investigated. To protect his home, he will take part in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psychotic head of Black House, but the truth is far darker than he imagines. In Low Town, no one can be trusted.
Daniel Polansky has crafted a thrilling novel steeped in noir sensibilities and relentless action, and set in an original world of stunning imagination, leading to a gut-wrenching, unforeseeable conclusion. Low Town is an attention-grabbing debut that will leave readers riveted . . . and hungry for more.
My Thoughts: Low Town is a noir drama set in a dystopian world where sorcery and science mingle together and are often indistinguishable from each other. As is often the case in noir dramas, the protagonist is not a nice man. In fact, at book's end I'm not even sure that he's a good man, and I'm saying this as someone who likes what Polanksy is doing here. He's a killer and a drug dealer, perhaps even an outright murderer. If he were a better person, he probably would have wound up dead long before the start of the novel. Polansky is skilled enough with language, however, that Warden remains an interesting man; several of Warden's internal observations on the banality of the evil surrounding him had me giggling even as I realized I was going straight to hell for it. As a mystery, many are going to find it unsatisfying and easy to guess. (I'm not one for mysteries, generally, and I still figured out whoddunit a good eighty pages before Warden.) Fans of speculative fiction, dark worlds, and hard-bitten antiheroes will have a great time. As a first novel, it's strong, and I'm looking forward to what Polanksy does next.