Katja From The Punk Band by Simon Logan
(published by ChiZine Publications, 2010, TPB, £varies, out now)
Playing like a Cold War thriller with piercings, Katja From The Punk Band is author Simon Logan’s second novel, following on from Pretty Little Things To Fill Up The Void. My first inclination was to think of this novel as Cyberpunk – but that would be misleading as there’s no ‘cyber’ to speak of. The author describes his work as Industrial or Fetishcore fiction. I like the term neo-noir. Set at an indeterminate time, on an Eastern Bloc-style ‘work’ island, this novel is tight, lean and populated by characters looking for a better deal. Katja, a charming punk-ette, is a waitress in a slum diner, who has come across an opportunity (a vial containing a valuable narcotic) to get off the island. All she needs to do is stay one step ahead of her pursuers, who include her parole officer (Aleksakhina), her former boyfriend (Januscz), a low-life drug dealer (Kohl), and his boss (Dracyev). Along for the ride is Nikolai, a wastrel junkie, hooked on drugs and arcade games, and slightly in awe of Katja, and her ever-present guitar (used more as a weapon than as a musical instrument). All Katja and Nikolai need to do is get the vial to the mysterious Man in Red, over on the mainland. Like all simple propositions, they never work out simply…
Logan’s prose is present tense, lending it an immediacy that feels fluid and not forced. The story hurtles along, a neat twist being that we get scenes from various character’s perspectives, often in the build up to an event of some kind. In lesser hands this style would feel manipulative and overly technical, but here it pulls the reader into the larger story at work; this is a grim world and all the characters are looking for their own bit of solace. There is a permanent gloom over the island; daylight has no place here. This could be the future or it could be the height of the Cold War. It doesn’t matter, as the style feels timeless, and effortless. The story plays out, in parts, like a classic thriller, chase sequence following and preceding action, often fast and brutal. At other times this feels like a tale of doomed hope (see the fated romance between Aleksakhina and Ylena); the author masterly spins bittersweet melancholy to counter the downbeat grind.
A neo-noir thriller unlike anything you’ll have read before. Find it, buy it.
Andy Jamieson, Editor
Visit Simon’s website: www.coldandalone.com
Simon’s next book is called Guerra and is out late 2012.