Roadkill, by Joseph D’Lacey, follows the 100 second journey of an unknown protagonist, a Gentleborn, intent on winning a race that will elevate him (or her?) to a status that will change their lives forever; the winner will join the Boymen in immortality.
The motorbikes on which the participants of the race ride are made out of steel, stripped to the bare essentials and infused with the supernatural spirit of the Boymen, all of whom have ridden to the Edge in search of a conciousness that exists outside of human comprehension, previously.
Obviously, the first thing that struck me about Roadkill were the issues surrounding class. Without going into a huge social analysis about class systems and the like, the protagonist is evidently trying to transcend their class by participating in this break-neck race that will determine whether he or she is good enough to become one of the Boymen; a mythical group of people who have travelled through the darkness of the human world (or so it seems) and into the light of an immortal, god-like realm:
‘Everyone has their place, of course, but I wish to rise above them all, to dedicate my life to something greater…’
The last 100 seconds sees the two riders navigate the last stretch of highway, known as the Final Five; a treacherous strip of road full of hidden surprises, like craters that appear out of nowhere, granite pillars and a black fox with amber eyes that likes to ask pondersome, existential questions:
“What I want to know is,” continues the fox, “in a world where you already have
more currency, power and freedom than you can use, why are you still hungry?
What is it the Gentleborn lack that makes them ride the Final Five?”
This scene here of the fox reminds me of this. No disrespect meant to the author 😉
In the 30-odd page chapbook we are taken on a break-neck journey of almost blistering proportions. We can literally feel the heat of rubber burning against highway and the agonising, physical battle that the protagonist has against the elements. Does he/she make it? Well, you better buy a copy and find out, lazy-bones.
I feel like Roadkill ponders over valid questions regarding our intrinsic purpose and the value attributed to the lives of people from different class backgrounds. I like the existential angst of the protagonist; who am I and what am I here to achieve? This is something I think everybody has asked themselves at some point and I think it’s a real and natural human desire to want to break free from societal constraints and achieve the impossible. Like the fox says, if the protagonist already has more wealth and power than he needs then why race? Everyone wants to be immortal in some or another.
‘To swerve from destiny is to deny it…’
Are our paths pre-determined? Are we fated to do/not do certain things? I think that perhaps the protagonist believes that he/she is master of their own destiny, though I believe that this notion is contradicted at certain points. The protagonist believes that everyone has their place, but that he is worthy of being given a chance to elevate him/herself. I dunno. Confusing.
I guess the main lesson I have got from Roadkill is that journeys, in both the physical and metaphorical sense, are all a voyage of self-discovery. Though, hopefully not as punishing as this one…
I think that Roadkill has been a bit of a tricky one to review for me personally. I felt a little bamboozled at the complicated hierarchical world that had been created as means to give an insight into the life and motivation of the protagonist. Maybe it’s just me!
Overall, I did think that Roadkill was an enjoyable enough read and I especially liked the chapbook format; something a little different for a short, sharp shock.