Book Review of The Race, by Nina Allan
Genre: Science Fiction
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewer: Michael Griffiths
The Race, by Nina Allan is a literary novel with just a tinge of Science Fiction. Things are hinted at in this book, like parallel worlds and the ability to talk to animals, as well as biologically developed smart dogs, but these are just side notes to the story of two different girls growing up through hard times. They live outside London, but both England and the outer islands are places not very similar to our world.
The book is broken up into several different sections which focus on the story of a family who gets involved with smart dog racing as well as more nefarious pursuits. The first section (I think) is the main character, Christy’s, fictional account of her own life. This sets the stage for the ‘real’ story which comes next. Other characters are outlined and introduced as we proceed through this epic (470 page) novel.
Again, the science fiction aspects are only briefly considered and does little to change the plot or affect the characters with a few small exceptions. Instead this is a well written story detailing the hardships, which can befall young women. Not everything is dreary, but the world these characters live in is gloomy and dark throughout most of the tale.
Christy’s life revolves quite a bit around her wild and uncontrollable brother. He brings hardship upon the family again and again, which include making her mother move away forever. Smart dog racing becomes their life, but also leads them toward disaster.
Downsides of this novel could include a reader being disgruntled if they expected a true science fiction novel. Parts of the novel are a bit confusing and many of the story threads are left unfinished. It is almost like finding a few photo albums of a family and not knowing the beginning or the end of their tale. I am rating it as a literary novel more than science fiction. If I was looking at it as a science fiction novel I would probably drop a whole star.
Allan is a very talented writer and the book is absorbing. If the reader can fall in and enjoy the story for what it is, I think most people will get a lot out of it. This might be a good book to introduce a daughter or girlfriend to science fiction if they have never tried it before and you wanted to ease them into the genre.