Roadkill is a dystopian novel set in the future. Written about the triumph of the human spirit, about defying incredible odds, and the blooming of love across barriers of culture, economics and traditional experience, the novel is one part social commentary and one part futuristic adventure story. It traces the story of Mary, a history professor at “The Company” university, who wishes to escape the stifling autocratic regime in which she lives and works. The novel also tells the story of Keats, a Bonded worker who, under the influence of a sense-expanding drug called existentialene, flees the work camp where he lives, into a mysterious region at the edge of his city, known as The Open Space. Encountering one another unexpectedly in this mysterious and uncharted setting, Mary and Keats form an uneasy alliance as they flee deeper into what they soon discover is a large museum of fabricated eco-regions – a jungle, a desert, to name but a few – pursued by The Company’s security forces, known as Calvins.
Roadkill is a chilling speculation about a world in the not-too-distant future where religion, history and all aspects of human life are manipulated by The Company: a sprawling corporate empire of interconnected factory branches and work camps. The novel derives its title from the fate of those who would try to cross the 1,000-mile Liberty Freeway oval that serves as an impenetrable barrier around the Open Space, The Company’s various divisions, its work camps, and the ghostly city where management and security forces live. Thousands of wheelmen drive high-speed vehicles called rodancers around this high speed oval, preventing bonded workers from surviving any dash across the pavement in a quest for the potentially different world beyond.
But Roadkill is also an unusual love story. From disparate backgrounds and circumstances, Mary (the Golden Woman) and Keats (the Orphan) come together in friendship and, ultimately, in love, as they penetrate more deeply into the artificial, exotic and sometimes dangerous world of the Company museum that makes up the Open Space. Then, in the climactic moment when they must conquer the barrier of the freeway, in search of freedom, Mary and Keats join forces with a natural environment that also refuses to be conquered by The Company. In alliance with the natural world itself, Mary and Keats escape the oval in which they have been trapped, demonstrating the perpetuity, triumph and resilience of the human spirit.
Plot/Idea: 6 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 6.25 out of 10
Plot: Set in a compelling dystopian future, this story is congested by an overloading of exposition. While somewhat stalled by a lack of present-time scenes, the story develops greater urgency as it progresses.
Prose: Writing in fluid, lyrical sentences, Grills demonstrates a clear facility with language and tone. However, these attributes are hindered by a tendency to sacrifice clarity for poetry. Streamlining such alluring descriptions into more experiential showing, would allow these moments to have greater impact.
Originality: Striking prose and an enticing premise allow this novel to stand out within the larger category of dystopian fiction.
Character Development: Characters gain complexity and distinctive qualities as the novel develops, however, they remain secondary to the shining prose and many fall short of fully materializing.
Date Submitted: July 31, 2018