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Autodrome by Kim Lakin-Smith

Autodrome by Kim Lakin-Smith
Book Name: Autodrome
Author: Kim Lakin-Smith
Publisher(s): Snowbooks Ltd
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback
Genre(s): YA Science Fiction / Steampunk
Release Date: September 1, 2013

Eddie Izzard used to do a sketch where he talked about how you only get car chases in movies, never in books. And the reason you don’t get them in books is that it would be very dull:

“The man was driving. He looked over his shoulder at the other man, and he was driving too, they were driving fast…”

In Autodrome Kim Lakin-Smith takes that piece of wisdom, sets fire to it, chucks it out of the window and then reverses over it, just to make sure. There are car chases a-plenty here, car chases, bike chases, skateboard chases. Whole lotta chasing going on…

The Autodrome of the title is a desert city of the future, where the race is everything, a way to fortune and glory, and a route out of the impoverished Eastern Quarter. East sider Zar Punkstar – everyone in the book has brilliant, ludicrous names – has just won his first Pro-League race when he finds his estranged father murdered in his workshop. His only clue is the holographic 3D map Sol Punkstar died to protect, but in order to solve the clues hidden in it, Zar must enter the Ramrod Rally, a dangerous trans-desert race with no quarter given. He can’t trust his competitors, but as the race goes on, it becomes clear he can’t trust his own team, either.

The book drives an uneasy path between YA and adult SF, and it’s unclear which side of the line it falls. The very stylish cover suggests a mature read, and there are themes of violence and drug abuse – Zar’s mother is addicted to synthetic drug Razzledazzle, and the scenes of him trying to deal with her as she overdoses are heartbreaking. But most of the protagonists are very young. Zar and his number-one crush, fellow racer Raina Jubilique are only fifteen, and their teammates are only a little older, dealing with their first experiences of death and broken hearts.

The severed city, split between the plush mansions of the West side and the habitation pods of the East, is run, and fought over, by mysterious businessmen, and their influence extends beyond the city to the Eras, desert towns where the inhabitants have rejected the modern world for an older way of life, set in the 30s, the 50s or even the 70s. Kim Lakin-Smith’s love for classic cars of every era is apparent on every oil-stained page; seriously, it wouldn’t surprise me if she bleeds petrol. And even a total non-petrol head like me can enjoy the tension and drama of the race and Zar’s quest for his father’s legacy, solving intricate puzzles to reveal something that will change the city for good.

This book is, in parts, the sweaty, oil-stained love child of The Crystal Maze and Wacky Races. I kid you not – you know the part where the body of Dick Dastardly’s car winds up on stilts to go over the top of another car? That actually happens. And for that reason alone you should buy this book. Because car chases, despite what you might have been told, can be a lot of fun to read.


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