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The Race

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  774 ratings  ·  182 reviews
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: greyhounds genetically modified with human DNA
Paperback, 444 pages
Published July 19th 2016 by Titan Books (first published August 3rd 2014)
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Average rating 3.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  774 ratings  ·  182 reviews

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Occasionally, when I'm reading something I really love, I experience this feeling that is difficult to quantify in words. It's as though pieces of the past, encapsulating the pure undiluted pleasure of reading as a child, come back to me not as memories, but as full and tangible moments. I think it's probably the closest it's possible to get to time-travelling. The Race had this effect on me several times.

It opens with the story of Jenna, who lives in an English coastal town named Sapphire. The
This book was a hot mess. I suppose there's some fancy scifi-slash-pyschological reason why Jenna and Christy's stories were exactly the same, or why we got pages and pages of Jenna explaining how she made gloves instead of any resolution of these four desperately boring, disparate storylines, but I can't grasp it. Allan never explains why smartdogs were smartdogs, and not smartrats or any other animal, in the same way she doesn't explain why this futuristic greyhound racing needs human 'runners ...more
Joanne Hall
I feel a little bit misled by this one. It was perfectly well written and interesting, but the blurb promised SF and greyhounds, two of my absolute favourite things. The book is structured almost as four novellas, and two of the novellas are not SF at all. In fact, most of the book was not SF and it only featured holistic amounts of greyhounds, hence the low rating.

If someone wants to write a near-future SF that actually focuses on enhanced greyhounds, then I would buy that like a shot. But this
Ian Mond
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What’s It About

The back cover copy of The Race would lead you to believe that the entire novel is set on the coastal town of Sapphire, suffering a slow decline from fracking and ecological disaster. And while that’s partly true, Sapphire and its denizens only comprise a fourth of the novel. In actual fact The Race consists of four novellas that are linked in an unexpected way.

Should I Read It?

Yes. Absolutely.

This is a remarkable début novel on a number of levels. For one there’s the gorgeous, me
The Captain
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Ahoy there me mateys! So back in 2015 I was mesmerized by the John W. Campbell award finalists and was determined to read them all. Why that year versus any other year? I have no idea. But since that time me determination has not waivered. Getting copies of the novels and the time to read them were more of the problem. This novel marks me finally making it to the half-way point.

This novel is a hard one to categorize. The story is written in four parts with each part portraying a different perspe
Seregil of Rhiminee
Originally published at Risingshadow.

The Race is Nina Allan's debut novel. It's a rewarding, thought-provoking and beautifully written novel about four damaged people, brothers and sisters, everyday life, ecological collapse, smart dog racing and two different realities that merge and twist in a compelling way.

Because Nina Allan has written beautiful short stories and novellas, I was eager to read her debut novel. In my opinion she has succeeded perfectly in writing a beautiful and immersive nov
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I see from the other reviews that readers are deeply divided on the merits of this book. I happen to agree with several of them that this book's cover copy is deeply misleading, but I happen to think that Nina Allan herself didn't quite know what her book was about. There are some interesting conversations emerging here about family and such, but the pacing and plotting were a terrible mess, and the characters lacked distinctive voices. I found myself bored about a third of the way through, and ...more
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Race wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was drawn to the idea of the smartdog racing against a backdrop of a Britain damaged by fracking. Honestly, the fracking part is of no consequence, and I can understand why some readers were disappointed, but this book actually turned out to be something quite clever instead.

There are five stories, and to some they might seem disjointed, but the connections are there. In fact all the things I felt weren’t that great in Jenna’s story, which comes firs
Tim Hicks
Feh. Not as advertised. Cover quotes Alastair Reynolds saying it's a "superbly strange SF novel."

A quarter of the way through, we're in a dysfunctional part of England in a near-future version of our world. "Smartdogs" are being created, with empathic human handlers. Mildly interesting concept, legitimate SF, and we wonder where it is going.

Change gears. 127 pages in a world that is for all practical purposes real-today, about ordinary people growing up unhappy and not getting along very well
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A series of vignettes intertwined by slightly familiar details from previous chapters, bookended by the more SFnal of the works. Calls to question the ideas of reality and SF, character perspective, origination of fictional detail. Heavily literary, much to play with here.

Even better as a reread.
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: snoot
Misclassified and mis-marketed, I nevertheless had a grand time reading this novel, sort of despite myself. Since the cover and blurb are not only poor but misleading, here's a thumbnail. This is a mostly plotless collections of stories about siblings, missing parents, language and its limitations as a form of communication. Roughly half of the stories are works of speculative fiction by a character (Christy) in the other half, a sort of parallel world to ours where there are CDs and genetic eng ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it liked it
My next installment in the Women's Book March challenge is The Race, by Nina Allan.I have mixed feelings about this one. I've had The Race on my to-read list for a while, in part because it was praised by one of my favorite sci-fi authors, Alastair Reynolds, who called it "a gorgeously and superbly strange SF novel". Another blurb promised a blend of "English country novel and hard science fiction", which is a pretty intriguing mashup.

The first section of the book starts strong, delivering a sto
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, 2018
What can I say about this book? I loved it. I loved every page of it, and I'm not sure what I think now that I'm done, except that it was an entire experience, that I would love to discuss it and that its layers are so complex I almost want to re-read it immediately, so as to discern what I must have missed on the first read. Allan is exquisitely talented and thought-provoking. There were small fragments and sentences I didn't love, but the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

A novel obs
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Such a strange book.

I loved the whales.
3.5 stars

Uneven (the entire first section fell flat for me-I almost set the book aside for good when endless descriptions of racing gauntlets began to overshadow the plot) but with enough intriguing ideas and imagery to make it worth reading as a whole.

Curiously, since Allan has identified herself as a science-fiction/fantasy writer, I find her most effective when she's writing straight-forward literary fiction, as in the second and third chapters of this book. Perhaps the necessity of setting
lucky little cat
Ambitious, beautifully written fantasy with multiple vignettes from related alternate universes, some more interesting than others. The opening chapter is outstanding.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea what this was about.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
'The Race' is an extremely readable yet surprisingly subtle sci-fi novel. The first 130 pages suggest an enjoyable and straightforward adventure, set in a near future or alternate present. Then the point of view and entire premise shift, undermining your initial assumptions and raising interesting questions about what science fiction can do as a genre. Allan seems to be saying that within sci-fi escapism and current anxieties coexist, both on a personal and societal level. The section narrated b ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is an unexpectedly weird book. If you were to pick it up and read a randomly selected page, you might think it's near-future dystopian science fiction about genetically modified greyhounds, standard literary fiction about the pain and promise of family and romantic relationships, or a fantasy-tinged science fictional tale in the style of Ursula Le Guin.

This book is all of those things; it's not so much a novel as a series of tenuously connected novellas and (at least in the edition I stumb
Kenya Starflight
May 14, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I normally don't review books I didn't finish, but sometimes a book bothers me enough that I just have to say something despite not finishing it. And I fully believe that the review of someone who didn't finish a book can be just as valid as the review of someone who completed it -- sometimes knowing why someone coudn't finish a book can still help a potential reader make the decision on whether or not to pick it up themselves. I want to make it clear, however, that I'm ONLY reviewing the portio ...more
Laura Mauro
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve held off reviewing this because I honestly don’t know how to collate my feelings about it into a coherent piece of writing. Suffice to say, it’s an absolute triumph of a book. An interweaving of several stories connected, on the surface, by the thinnest of threads. But beneath the superficial similarities it’s clear that what they share is the same narrative heart, the same central questions asked: what is the nature of identity, and in what way can we be said to exist outside of the percep ...more
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unusual, haunting, and thought-provoking book. Its four sections switch between our world and a not-quite-our-world slipstream setting, in which 'smartdog' racing goes on in the toxic Romney Marshes, and Atlantic whales move in convoys, attacking ships. We explore these worlds and their links to one another via four engaging narrators. Each tale concerns their search for truth (though that makes it sound rather cliched and quaint - 'The Race' is neither), with the protagonist coming to terms ...more
Martin Huijgen
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Mentioning aliens and dogs with altered dna does not scifi make. The blurb is misleading. It is not even a novel. Nina Allan is a good writer. I received this book to review but if I would have bought it I would have returned it because of the misleading genre stamp and cover blurbs. At twenty-five years of reading all kinds of books I have never returned one; this would be the first.


The first star is for the idea; the second for writin
Sam Fleming
Feb 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Allan's debut novel, and it's an accomplished piece of work. The blurb on the back is somewhat misleading; this is less about a girl and her dog than it is about the nature of fiction and reality, and how subjective experiences are really all that we have, despite or even because of our efforts to manipulate them objectively. It takes science fiction into the literary bracket, rewarding the thoughtful reader who appreciates more than a by-the-numbers hero's journey. ...more
Feb 26, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This is copy 38 of 100 signed numbered copies.
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Title: The Race

Author: Nina Allan

Publisher: 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
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't pass my 25% rule. Very dark, like it made me feel like I was living in the muck which I suppose is a testament to the writing. Just not for me. ...more
Well, that was a weird book. I'm not entirely sure I liked it; there were elements that I found really interesting, but they were never followed through to their conclusion. It has multiple narratives that interrupt each other and while the interactions/overlap between them were intriguing, I am a simple soul who would probably have preferred a straightforward sci-fi novel like it seemed like we were getting in the first section.

Also, some of the sexual content made me extremely uncomfortable.
Paul Calhoun
Jan 27, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After thinking about it, I cannot share my review for this book nor my notes because I do not believe I can discuss it without verging into dangerous territory when it comes to my opinion of this book. Even a summary of my review would get into words that, as a fellow writer, I believe are disrespectful.

I will only say this: This book needs a very different dust jacket blurb, because it hypes up elements that are very minor to the book itself. If you are looking for hard SF with "worlds in the
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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