Friday, July 15, 2016

The Race - Nina Allan

Book Details

Book Title: The Race

Author: Nina Allan

: Titan Books 2016

Source: Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Page Count: 446

Format: Paperback

Genre: Science/Literary Fiction

ISBN: 978-1907069703

Audience: Those who enjoy complex and robust stories with scientific flourishes

Laugh or Cry: Both

Buy? Read? Avoid?: Buy/Read if you enjoy depth and complexity with your novels

Summed up in one word: Choppy

First Impression: Let me clarify choppy...this book is good, even great in parts. It is also uneven, misleading and eventually slightly over indulgent. That is only my opinion on the writing style and some of the content. This is coming from a science fiction lover more than a literary fiction fan though, so you may want to skip my thoughts and dive right into this complex and mind bending piece of fiction. Here we have four big and bold stories, weaved together with characters and small doses of magic, fantasy, science or whatever you want to call it...

Summary Of The Book:

Jenna Hoolman lives in Sapphire, an offshoot town of London in a dystopian, rough version of England. Jenna's brother Del is involved in the local smart dog racing scene. Technology now allows humans and dogs to communicate empathically and people used this technology to create a more technical and intense version of the sport of racing greyhounds. Unfortunately where there is gambling, there is corruption. When Del's daughter Lumey goes missing at aged four, Jenna goes hunting for the truth.

Christy is lonely, her mother is gone and she barely knows her father. All she has is her brother and she can't take comfort in him as she fears what he is capable of. The only true comfort she has is her books, they protect her and allow her to create worlds where she can escape reality and change the course of events. When Christy is forced to face the truth about her life, is she able to stomach it?

Alex Adeyemi is a war correspondent. He has fought many battles because of the colour of his skin and after it all he still fears for his daughter. An old flame pops up and starts causing trouble in Alex's life and he has to return to the past to get the answers he needs.

Maree is on the biggest journey of her life. Sailing away to tropical lands to use her natural abilities for the good of others. She knows nothing of her family. She only knows the family she has picked up on her travels. Can she turn her back on her calling as a human to find out more about herself?

In The Race, there are many stories all linked by science, blood and love. Take a trip to another universe and get lost in its complexity and its warped lands.

My Review:

Okay, I know I have said it too many times already but just one more time to make my point...this book is complex. Nina Allan writes like it is her oxygen, putting thought and effort into every little detail and aspect of her gloriously formulated and crafted worlds. If I am being 100% honest (which I am as it is my duty) I felt that it dragged on way to far past what I believed should have been the finished point. I will get back to this but first of all. Characters.

There are many characters that exist within these pages. They all have a place and they are all used to their fullest, maybe overused. First of all we have Jenna Hoolman. We spend about a fourth of the book with Jenna and we don't learn a massive amount about her as a person. Jenna's main event is her family, with her job and personal life taking a backseat and popping up occasionally to flesh her out. Del and his family are the real story here in the first act pf this story. Crazy Del with his dog racing, backhanded schemes and what not. The one thing you can't fault him on is his love for his daughter Lumey, though his efforts to get her back are questionable...but this is for you to decide. 

In the next act there is Christy and we learn everything about her, her childhood, her thoughts and feelings, her adult life and her sexual interests. Her story is upsetting, lonely, magical and mysterious. The third act stars Alex, a brave and caring soul who wants to protect everything he loves and do the right thing. Finally there is Maree, she has a lot on her shoulders, but as with all teenagers, she gets on with her life and takes it all as it comes. All these characters are what makes this book. If they were of any less quality then they are, this book would not work. We get love, pain, horror, wonder and may other experiences. Each one is developed and works well alongside the others and the only fault I can highlight is at some point each one can get slightly tedious. I felt that this book could have been much shorter and still have the effect we get from the finished article.

I am not going to dwell on settings of this sotry too much as they fluctuate all over the place and the characters are the priority in The Race with the various settings not playing much part in the story..other than with Maree and her steamboat. The settings did compliment each character well and added flavour to their story, but when you finish this book they are an after thought. I am going to tell the truth and admit that though I read every word in this novel, I am still not overly clear on the background concept of parallel universes...are they real or a figment of imagination...I guess it is the readers interpretation. Themes here are very plentiful, with heartbreaking ones like family betrayal and fun ones like youthful wonder and hope about the world.

This book has got a lot of praise and for the most part I agree with them. I thought the author was a natural artist. I found this story to be gritty and dirty but also beautiful and profound. My main problem would be that I felt it should have ended around 4/5 of the way through at least. I thought everything else was extra story that the author had to say but didn't really add much to the overall effect for me. This was a shame as I finished this book bored and slightly irritated. This is just my opinion as a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed Nina Allen's work and I look forward to more of her work, I may just aim to read the short pieces. 

Overall Nina Allen has a way with words, hypnotic, mesmerising, vivid and also gritty and sometimes uncomfortable. This book is very deep, very human and Nina Allen has many stories to tell and for the most part I am glad she told these ones.


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