SAND RUNNER by Vera Brook


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A young man must brave exceedingly treacherous courses and fierce, deadly competitors to win a popular footrace in Brook’s YA dystopian sci-fi debut.

Through sheer determination, Kai Reed finally crosses the finish line first at an annual local run in the Valley, earning a kiss from a beautiful woman named Sara. But an even bigger reward awaits: a chance to participate in the No Limits Race, a worldwide phenomenon featuring 10 runners on 10 different courses in as many days. The prize for the winner is no less than a life of luxury. Kai is recruited (via drone) by Emily Starr, an agent at an athletic management firm, and she quickly secures a sponsor for him. Kai soon agrees to undergo major surgery that makes him “part human, part machine.” Assisted by Emily, technician Andy, and machinery designer Neen, Kai preps for races on varying terrain, including on ice and on the walls of abandoned buildings. In the ensuing weeks, he falls for his demanding but alluring agent. The impending race is unquestionably perilous, and some competitors have lost more than just their pride in the past. But Kai also worries about Emily—does she reciprocate his romantic feelings, or does she have another agenda? Sci-fi plots that focus on brutal contests have been done many times before, but Brook manages to inject plenty of romance and satire into her story. The developing relationship between Kai and Emily is gradual and convincing, and the author also effectively lampoons the media along the way; at one point, for instance, televised coverage is edited to make an unscrupulous runner look honorable. The simple, no-nonsense prose, concise paragraphs, and short chapters keep the story bouncing along. Orphaned Kai is a smart and resilient character, but he’s not quite as intriguing as others, including Emily, who has a murky history; Kai’s elderly neighbor, Ron, who’s indifferent to the race; and Venus, who’s the race’s sole female competitor.

This book’s swift pace and passionate characters make up for a familiar premise.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2017
Page count: 249pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2017


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