Roadkill by Joseph D’Lacey – review

Joseph-D-Lacey-Roadkill-211x300Roadkill is touted by the publisher, This Is Horror, as a chapbook. It’s sold as such and there are a limited 125 signed hard copies available. I was sent an ecopy to review, but I’m not sure if it will be made available as an ebook in the future. However, in any format this is actually a short story. With a chapbook, you expect something of at least novelette length, preferably novella (maybe 10,000 words or more) This story is more like the setup of something bigger.

And it’s not a horror story, though it is dark future sci-fi of a sort and that’s good. It’s told entirely from the point of view of one driver in a two car race through a blasted dystopian future. They’re on a race stretch called the Final Five, set up with all kinds of obstacles to interrupt their incredibly high speed, custom race cars. The worldbuilding, especially in such a constrained story, is excellent up to a point. But, of course, I wanted to know more. D’Lacey is a great writer and this story is visceral and powerful. The racers are trying to gain social standing by winning the race, but every second they’re risking their lives. The intensity of their situation is carried well throughout the story. But only in the car.

And where the worldbuilding was excellent, but lacking depth and therefore reader immersion, the characters were similarly lacking. There’s only one real character that we’re close to, in the driver’s seat with him while he races. We know that he wants to graduate to a better standing, but we don’t know why. I wanted to know more about who he was, what the new standing would mean for him should he win. I also wanted to know more about the world – why it was this way, why racing had become such a symbol of achievement and so on. Every aspect of this story was both excellent and frustratingly incomplete. The moments inside the car were tight and increasingly intense, but everything outside it was nebulous and unformed. This made it hard to really engage with the story, as none of the stakes were properly explained.

The story is excellently written and it’s well worth a read, but it’s not enough. This is a good short story, but it could have been an outstanding novella. Here’s hoping D’Lacey expands on this story or this world in future work.

The chapbook is available here.


Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
This entry was posted in Book Reviews and tagged , , by Alan Baxter. Bookmark the permalink.

About Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He is the author of the dark urban fantasy trilogy, Bound, Obsidian and Abduction (The Alex Caine Series) published by HarperVoyager Australia, and the dark urban fantasy duology, RealmShift and MageSign (The Balance 1 and 2) from Gryphonwood Press. He co-authored the short horror novel, Dark Rite, with David Wood. Alan also writes short fiction with more than 50 stories published in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France. His short fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction (forthcoming), Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Postscripts, and Midnight Echo, among many others, and more than twenty anthologies, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror (2010 and 2012). Alan also writes narrative arcs and dialogue for videogames and wrote the popular writer’s resource, Write The Fight Right, a short ebook about writing convincing fight scenes. He has twice been a finalist in the Ditmar Awards.

Leave a Reply