Book review: The Human Race, by O. C. Heaton

The Human Race is a 2009 science fiction cum adventure thriller novel written by O. C. Heaton. The book focuses on a monumentally important scientific discovery and the dangerous race to make it available to the public.

The Human Race is set in several locations around the world, but its main location is probably Iceland – home of the scientist who developed the amazing new technology, following on in her father’s footsteps.

The other main characters are a British billionaire entrepreneur brought in to help the strong-willed Icelander bring her technology to market, and a young and ruthless American businessman hell-bent on saving his family business (once among the biggest in the world) from bankruptcy – by whatever means necessary; including stealing other people’s ideas.

I started reading with an open mind, not sure what to expect from this science thriller with the striking front cover. All I knew was that it was largely set in Iceland and that that was probably the only reason IceNews was asked to review the book. Unfortunately my opinion quickly split in two and my final analysis of The Human Race was both positive and negative. We will start with the positive:

The Human Race is a very gripping read. No matter whether you love or hate the story, the characters or the locations, you will finish the whole book. And you’ll probably finish it quickly as well. It is like junk food in that it demands to be devoured, even at the cost of making you feel a bit ill.

For a thriller to be an addictive page turner is pretty much a case of ‘job done’. It is clear that the British author wanted to create a high paced and exciting book which hooks the reader in until the very end, and he has succeeded enviably in that.

But why does it have to be addictive guilt-ridden junk food? Why couldn’t it be a little more wholesome? Or just a little more whole, perhaps…

As an Iceland-based reviewer asked to review The Human Race purely because so much of it is set in Iceland, I have to say the book falls at every single Iceland-related hurdle.

I don’t mind when authors make up fictional places within real cities or fictional brands within the real world (for example); but making up fictional places in Reykjavík alongside real places, as well as using real places for unreal purposes, comes across as peculiar to people who know the city. People who know Iceland will also find it peculiar that there are dozens of Icelandic characters in the books with names that are seemingly made up – like Jorg, for example. Despite his effort to get accented letters right, even the main character’s name is wrong…I think. Unless I am mistaken, Uma is not an Icelandic name, while Úma is – albeit a rare one.

Then there’s Iceland itself: almost unbelievably barren, bleak, cold, windy and rainy every single day of the year with nothing to break the endless greyness except white snow and the pink inside of your eyelids as they try to protect your eyes from said wind and snow. It would be foolish to deny the elements of truth in this, but the author does have a tendency to make the country sound like pure hell rather than the popular tourist hotspot it is.

And talking of tourism, the idea that the Icelandic police are motivated by protecting the country’s image as a tourism destination and would act more despicably than a third world militia to protect Iceland’s pure image in the foreign media is probably quite offensive to real Icelandic policemen and women.

The lack of a single Icelandic-sounding name on the Acknowledgements page really stands out in the story, because any Icelander would have made literally hundreds of much-needed changes which would have improved the book.

It is not just Iceland either. I picked out a glaring error in fact checking or spell checking on almost every page.

So, in conclusion, The Human Race is a highly-addictive book which you will in all likelihood devour greedily like some sort of chocolate crazed child left unsupervised by the pick & mix candy. How you feel afterwards depends entirely on your ability to forgive unnecessary mistakes and inconsistencies, and whether or not you happen to be Icelandic. My bet is that no Icelander would be able to concentrate enough on the actual story to be able to enjoy it…but they would finish reading it just like everybody else.

O. C. Heaton’s The Human Race (Rockwood Publishing, released 2009, ISBN: 978-0-9561720-0-6)

Reviewed by Alëx Elliott, IceNews editor

Photo: front cover of The Human Race

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