Nina Allan: The Race

The Race Cover

I received a free physical copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 2/5
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: July 19th 2016

Synopsis:

A child is kidnapped with consequences that extend across worlds… A writer reaches into the past to discover the truth about a possible murder… Far away a young woman prepares for her mysterious future…

In a future scarred by fracking and ecological collapse, Jenna Hoolman’s world is dominated by illegal smartdog racing: greyhound genetically modified with human DNA. When her young niece goes missing that world implodes… Christy’s life is dominated by fear of her brother, a man she knows capable of monstrous acts and suspects of hiding even darker ones. Desperate to learn the truth she contacts Alex, who has his own demons to fight… And Maree, a young woman undertaking a journey that will change her world forever.

Review:

When I was sent the synopsis of this book I was immediately intrigued. It sounded like an epic novel with the use of parallel worlds and all the characters being linked together in some way. However, I was sorely disappointed when it did not live up to the hype I had forced upon it.

My main concern came from the general structure of the four different narratives and the way they supposedly link together. The first two narratives are told through Jenna and then Christy. These two characters seem to share a lot of similarities: both their mother’s left their families without any explanation, both characters have a fear of their sibling etc. When I first encountered Christy, I was seriously confused. This was just another retelling of Jenna’s life with some slight alterations in the narrative? Allan does this continuously throughout the novel. Yes, all these characters are linked together but there is no clear explanation as to how and why. We are given vague hints and tips on how these world, universes, characters are linked together and why but with no coherence to give this novel any sense of direction and flow. I found myself having to put together a lot of pieces of this novel in order to get some notion of what was actually going on. Similarly, Allan does not provide a lot of detail on how these worlds have become what they are, why these smartdogs were created and their purpose, why Jenna’s young niece went missing and the motives behind her kidnappers. It’s all a novel about questions with no answers fully given. I finished this book even more confused than I was at the start and with none of my questions truly answered.

I also found issue with context within some of these narratives that, in itself, was confusing enough. The narrative would follow a train of thought of a progression of events to then, out of nowhere, move on to a topic that, though related to the character’s narrative, had no real anchor in the grand narrative of events. We would go from talking about the town of Sapphire to how her day at school was. It was unnecessary and disjointed the narrative a lot. Coupled with what I have mentioned above, I frequently found myself putting down the book, coming back to read and looking over the last page I read to find that I could not recollect anything that I had read previously. The words made no sense and held no significance in what I believed the narrative to be about.

With that being said, I did like the characters – what little we truly did learn about them. I found that we learnt more about the side-characters more than our protagonists in most of the narratives, giving us more of an understanding about life around them than them personally. I found out more about Del and Derrick than I truly did about Jenna or Christy. It was almost as if the writing got progressively better as the narrative went on and the character’s became more three-dimensional. However, having read some reviews prior to reading, I agree with the perspective that is appears as if the author has written a series of novels that have some sliver of a connection and then just stuck them all together in some form of a novel.

I desperately wanted to enjoy this novel purely for the premise itself but found that really hard with the poor writing and structure as well as the style of writing that is used. This novel could have had a lot of potential but has been let down by all of these aspects.

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