cover image The Race

The Race

Nina Allan. Titan, $14.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-78565-036-9

Like a pair of facing mirrors, this enticingly mysterious episodic debut novel by BSFA Award–winner Allan reflects upon itself in endless dizzying ways. Jenna Hoolman, an artisan glove maker, worries about her brother, Derrick (called Del), who races genetically modified greyhounds called smartdogs, and his missing daughter, Lumey. Christy, a writer, worries about her brother, Derek (also called Del), and keeps a journal full of stories of Jenna. Maree, a woman who can understand the language of the smartdogs, is kidnapped by government researchers who hope to learn more about her connection with the smartdogs and struggles to reach her father, Derek Hoolman, and aunt, Christy—who may or may not be the Derek and Christy mentioned earlier. The setting shifts from the fictional English town of Sapphire to the actual one of Hastings, even as real countries take on or remove altered fictional guises. Allan works to create a permeable set of universes that are as connected by dreams and nightmares as by cell phones and the Internet, changing realities on the sly like a magician manipulating her cards. Her protagonists catch mesmerizing glimpses of alternative lives but remain resolutely focused on fixing the ones in which they find themselves. Strong writing and the layering of realities gives the book a mental hook akin to the best alternative history fiction, and just chasing down the various meanings of the title will keep readers fascinated for hours. (July)