Published by This Is Horror
Two racers in stripped-down vehicles known as Vindicators hurtle breathlessly towards a dystopian finish line in the latest of This Is Horror’s chapbook line, Joseph D’Lacey’s Roadkill. The prize awaiting the victor is a religious ascension of sorts — elevation to the ranks of the seldom-seen, ritualistic societal elite known as the Boymen.
The scene for this headlong battle is the “Final Five” — a treacherous stretch of road packed with sudden obstacles, mirages, and the presence of a spiritual force ruling under the scorching heat of an oppressive sun. From the perspective of one of the unnamed contestants, D’Lacey takes us into not only the white-hot moment of the race itself, but also into a world ruled by caste and dedication to competition. As the two adversaries dash neck-and-neck towards their destinies, we’re treated to every searing touch of hot metal on flesh, every drop of burning sweat, every fragment of shattering glass, and every missed heartbeat as each touch of the wheel threatens to unleash a 180MPH torrent of devastation.
Being a chapbook, of course Roadkill is a short experience — clocking in at roughly 37 pages — but D’Lacey gives nary a chance to breathe for almost the entire duration. Between the pulse-pounding stretches of the race itself, his glimpses at an esoteric wider world offer brief insight to something bigger behind this contest, including a glimpse at the shocking consequences of even slight mishandling of the Vindicators’ severely hazardous fuel, “Blindfire”. The undercurrent of spiritualism and faith leaves a perfectly balanced (but possibly frustrating) open ending here, leaving it up to the reader to consider the rewards at the finish line of this event — the much-sought “Convergence” that the racers desire… or merely oblivion. Who truly knows?
Roadkill is, ultimately, about the thrill of the chase — the screeching of tyres, burning of rubber on asphalt, and split-second moments between life and death; and in that it delivers in spades. D’Lacey’s prose is measured yet stunningly intense, with a particularly breathtaking sequence involving a stretch of road populated by irregularly-spaced towering stone monoliths delivering in-the-moment action at eye-watering speeds like nothing you’ve read before. A frenetic, blistering bullet train of white-knuckle reflex, Roadkill is pure adrenaline with a special touch of uncertainty, dread, and lurking damnation that all adds up to a palm-sweatingly good read.
5 out of 5