Title: Debt Collector Volume 1 (Episodes 1-3)
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Series: Debt Collector
Genre: Science Fiction
Summary (from Goodreads)
Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat, jackboots, and the black marks on his soul that every debt collector carries. He’s just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja’s sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane… until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn’t what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone–a dark pit he’s not sure he’ll be able to climb out of again.
Each of the instalments of the Debt Collector serial is around 12-15 thousand words, making this collection only just more than a novella. At first, I questioned wether ‘gritty future noir’ could be fully explored in just 12,000 words, but soon found the rapid pace of the writing and the economical use of detail made the series all the more compelling. I couldn’t put it down.
Lirium is a very flawed character, doing a horrible job and surviving it any way he can. He’s easy to relate to, to like, despite his drinking habits and recovery rituals involving prostitutes. Within the first few paragraphs he’s transferred the life out of someone, effectively killing them, and yet Quinn manages to keep us firmly on his side. Important, given how little space she has to work with.
The episodic nature of the story does mean a lot of unresolved issues within each instalment, but plot threads are consistently picked up across the three episodes I’ve read, and the whole thing promises to have a satisfying arc if it continues in the same vein. A couple of decisions are made a little rapidly, but that’s the nature of the story telling style, and not hugely detrimental to enjoyment.
In fact, the world is so intriguing and cleverly drawn – reminding me a little of the TV show Dark Angel at times – that any minor issues like that can be very easily overlooked. I found myself desperate to know more about the world – how does Lirium have his powers, what is the grander conspiracy at work (there must be one, there always is) and how do the mobs operate and so on and so on.
It’s also the first time ever that I’ve been sorely tempted to buy the next in a self published series. I might just have to treat myself next month.