Starfish Girl

Starfish Girl - Athena Villaverde 3.5 stars Starfish Girl is a sub-genre stew, a slathering of ingredients from urban fantasy, surrealism, sci-fi, steampunk, dystopia and bizarro. Beneath the sea and under a dome a band of mutants set out on a journey to the surface. Turning cogs, evil doctors, Victorian-like whore houses and a remote population of clowns are discovered along the way by a naive girl and her urban fantasy tough street-wise protector. This is the cast of the future and only 20 are allowed to make it out alive. The story is narrated in the present tense. Usually this narrative decision is made to accelerate immediacy, emotion and action. However, in this case observations take on a mechanical, detached tone, which creates distance, making the introduction of characters involved in the beginning scenes confusing (starfish girl, shark man, man with such and such ect). This may have been the aim of the author, but I was not a fan of the approach. The present tense shifts to the main characters, and when it does, I begin to get into the story. The perspective of Timbre (tough girl) and Ohime (starfish girl) provides a more intimate voice and to my relief, leans away from the 'reporting' of details that I felt in the beginning. However, when writing in the present tense a problem can arise, how to communicate past or provide background. Bits of this come into play mid-way through and although I wish it was given earlier (Timbre's), it was executed in a way that reminded me of comic book flashbacks. Some readers will dig this, while others may not. It will come down to personal taste. Lastly, I really wasn't sure what to think about Ohime. I had a hard time grasping if this girl was slow, mentally-challenged or what, but I think she was just supposed to be gullible. Given that Ohime was fifteen and menstruating, I had a tough time reconciling her childlike dialogue and behaviors as being merely a consequence of a sheltered life. Maybe I'm too jaded and narrowed by my own life experiences.