‘The Race’ is Nina Allan’s debut novel, though she is no stranger to fiction having a large selection of short stories and novellas having already been released. In her work, we are given four tales which almost read as novellas that are intertwined together from sharing the same set of worlds and characters. In her work she touches upon many social issues from fracking to genetic engineering to politics – all grounded with a focus on humanity.
The first installment introduces us to Jenna and her brother Del who live in a dystopian England which has been ravaged by war and fracking. Both the sport and distraction of the day are the racing of smartdogs which are genetically engineered dogs which contain human DNA that allows for a link between dog and human. The focus here is when their niece Maree is kidnapped and how it all ties together.
Second, we find that the entire world that we’ve been introduced to rests solely on the shoulders of Christy. A young woman who, in present day England, has actually just created the first world to escape from the violence that exists in her everyday life. Her violent brother Derek was already a problem but when his girlfriend disappears she suspects that her brother had something to do with it.
Third, we are introduced to Alex and is set 20 years later. Christy ends up tracking him down as he was a friend of Derek’s girlfriend and is still hunting for answers.
Finally, we’re returned to the dystopian England from the first chapter. While I still love these areas of the book the most, it was a little more difficult to experience the magic again knowing that it was a piece of fiction within a piece of fiction. Even so, we follow up with Maree who is now a young adult. She doesn’t remember her family and due to how she was raised is able to communicate with the smartdogs without an implant as regular people would have to do. Only by the end, she has learned quite a bit of how she got to where she is today.
While not a perfect piece of science fiction, with a brief break in the center, it is a well put together piece. All in all, this was a very fun read. For those who don’t like separate but related tales when they buy a novel, it might be a turn-off. However, the quality of writing and fact that they are all truly connected should put that annoyance to rest rather quickly.
If you’re looking for something that is pure science fiction from start to end you may want to avoid this one, but if you’re looking for some quality writing and original ideas grounded with a bit of “reality” then this is one to check out.
By: Nina Allan
July 19th, 2016