Genre: Dystopic Punk
Publisher: Chizine Publications
Chizine reads can always be guaranteed to have characters flawed to the point of grotesque they are beautiful. With Katja from the Punk Band” you are introduced to a menagerie of characters from the small-time chemical dealer, Kohl’s phobia to walking 13 steps, to the drug lord Dracyev’s petty revenge plots. Peculiarly enough, Katja as our Sex Pistol “Jacky Brown” gritty-with-broken-glass protagonist is one of the weakest characters, the cliche tough-as-nails punk girl, for which her singular motivation to leave her slave island (shared by 90% of the rest of the characters) before the end of the night prevents any character exploration of a potential sensitive or more ruthless side. However with the supporting characters given a meaty share of the spotlight, they all have a chance to shine under oily streetlights and a pacing almost running on steroids in intensity I would heartily give this page turner two glass ripped thumbs up. Except for the title.
While it does wonder for the book cover, in reality once you reach the end it feels more like one of those original ideas that got the whole story rolling and never got cut in the end. While I would have “Green Day” or the “Sex Pistols” in the soundtrack if they ever did a movie adaptation, the only sign of Katja being in a punk band is her bass used more as a cudgel than an instrument, and references to bandmates as just “bandmates”. She might as well have been wielding a mop from her waitress job and the story would not have been underserved.
Actually the setting as a whole is rather left lacking with substance to justify its existence: arcade game addicts, chemical vials, slave islands are all great ideas, but don’t connect. Is the slave island a Gulag in the Soviet Union? An alternative Russia with questionable labour laws and too much neon? Chemicals is constantly bandied about as important but never why, and the island as a slave pit that no one can leave for reasons unexplained making it feel like feels like the plot train to shutter the characters around than a cohesive world that they live in. Despite complex characters, the island feels like the worst pulp of Sin City rolled into an empty city. Between the stripped down apartments, the slick neon of the arcades, it’s populated by faceless extras that every character with a name and motivation freaking out are out to get them.
Having said that, their reactions of said characters viewing the world as bigger and scarier than it actually is is amusing enough that keeps “Katja from the Punk Band” from being another action page flipping misfire. The interconnected play between Katja, her parole officer, lovers, a arcade addict, all react to one another in hilarious ways, though the multiple viewpoints does get confusing in a couple chapters when they are running around trying not to get or trying to kill each other on a boat.
Katja from the Punk Band can be described as an A-list cast forced to perform in a middle school auditorium. The backdrop was made in 3rd-grade art class, the stage is too small, but their acting stand out well enough that our attention is focused on them.
Recommend: Meant to read if alone waiting for the metal band to start playing, cover up and prominent for a conversation starter.
By Joshua P’ng, A North York Writer
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