Review: Low Town
“There’s only so long one can maintain disapproval faced with the devastating and continuous onslaught of my humor.”
by Daniel Polansky
Low Town: A novel
by Daniel Polansky
published by Doubleday, part of Random House
categories: fantasy; mystery & thrillers
text-so-speech access is not blocked
lending: not enabled
simultaneous device licenses: 6
price at the time of writing: $12.99
released August 16, 2011
A substance-abusing ex-cop, living in the crumbling part of town, drawn out of retirement to hunt down a killer in his neighborhood. He needs his underworld contacts and calling in old favors to get the job done…and he’s on the wrong end of a beating more than once.
It’s a classic noir situation, but there’s a twist.
Daniel Polansky’s first novel is refreshingly not meta in its treatment of noir and fantasy, which is often the case. You won’t get that “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” sort of faux noir.
The fantasy is of the gritty type…not fairies and unicorns, but drug dealers and murders.
Creating a fantasy world is tough, and Polansky’s pulled me up short a few times. This is a pre-heavy tech world, with swords and crossbows being the weapons of choice, not gats and shivs. That’s fine…the thing that really stopped me was one character referring to another as “my prodigal son”. It’s such a specific reference (to the Gospel of Luke) that it’s like mentioning Marilyn Monroe or Jersey Shore. I’m not equating the value of any of these, of course, I’m just saying that it is clearly an Earthly reference…and specifically, our Earth.
There aren’t a lot of made-up words, and those can be distracting. On the other hand, in this novel, people will “light up a joint”…that also feels strange.
I’m not quite sure why…I’m okay with a reference to a “pike”, and many other Earthly terms…this just pulled me out of the story a bit.
Setting that aside, I enjoyed the story. The characters were fine…the world-weary Warden was interesting, and I did want to see what would happen next. There are other good characters…I don’t want to spoil any of it too much.
It wasn’t a great novel for me. I love being surprised, and Low Town didn’t manage that. The story was solid, though, with good atmosphere, and some great lines. I liked that there wasn’t explicit sex and graphic violence. There is a place for that, but it seems that many fantasy novels include it to make them seem modern. It was kind of nice, and old-fashioned in a good way. There are also recognizable ethnic stereotypes, although they aren’t nominally races from Earth.
I think that gives you a pretty good idea. I know some of you may balk at the $12.99 price. I read it as a loan from my public library, and you could register it at
to get a free e-mail when it drops in price. Is it going to do that? Sure, that would be likely when the paperback is released.
You can also try a free sample.
If you do read it, I’d be interested to hear what you think. My guess is that I may have underplayed it for some of you…that you may like it better than I did. I’m guessing some of you may like it less…that’s just the way things go.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.