I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr
Published by Random House Children's Books on July 14th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Family, Fantasy & Magic, Siblings, Survival Stories, Young Adult
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"Intense, original, compelling . . . bristles with attitude. So cool. Just read it."--Michael Grant, "New York Times" bestselling author of "Gone" and "BZRK "In the vein of "The Outsiders" and the early Western novels of Elmore Leonard, this inventive debut novel, a cross between the cult classic Mad Max movie series and Cormac McCarthy's "The Road, " blends adrenaline-fueled action with an improbable yet tender romance to offer a rich and vivid portrayal of misfits and loners forced together in their struggle for a better life. Adam Stone wants freedom and peace. He wants a chance to escape Blackwater, the dust-bowl desert town he grew up in. Most of all, he wants the beautiful Sadie Blood. Alongside Sadie and the dangerous outsider Kane, Adam will ride the Blackwater Trail in a brutal race that will test them all, body and soul. Only the strongest will survive. The prize? A one-way ticket to Sky-Base and unimaginable luxury. And for a chance at this new life, Adam will risk everything.
Stone Rider by debut author David Hofmeyr is one of those books that I would honestly use the phrase high octane for, cliche as it may sound. This is a book that is all thriller no filler, if you know what I mean. Stone Rider is the sort of book that I would hand to a reluctant teenage reader who was all about Mad Max: Fury Road. However, as adrenaline filled as I found this book, from time to time I did find it hard to connect with the main character, Adam Stone. In addition, there were a couple of deus ex machina moments that made my head tilt.
Set in a futuristic world, Stone Rider is about Adam Stone, a teenager who wants to escape Blackwater, this town in the desert where essentially everyone grows up to work the mines. The only people who get out are the ones who earn enough base points to get to the space station or the yearly winner of the Blackwater Trail – a byke race that puts the Tour De France to shame. Adam has earned enough money to enter the race. However, the local gang run by Levi Blood finds out that Adam has money and so demands a protection fee. He says no, and so they come knocking and Adam loses everything to their slings in a single night. With nothing to lose, he gathers up his courage and enters the Blackwater Trail, as a lone rider with no tribe. Only, he meets a mysterious stranger called Kane who helps him along the way. He also finds himself caring for Sadie Blood, another racer and also Levi’s sister. Adam is absolutely in the race for not only his freedom, but also his life.
I was expecting Adam to be more like Ponyboy given all of the comparisons of this book to SE Hinton’s The Outsiders. It is, in fact, not all that much like the Outsiders, except that Adam’s parents are dead and he lives with his brother. Also, there is a gang. Adam Stone is a character I think people can relate to, even if I found it hard to connect with him. Instead of being a full on hero all the time, he is often scared. He often acts too late. Or, when he is very afraid, he blacks out. However, Adam is an excellent rider and so, he thinks he can handle the race. He is tired of being pushed around by the likes of Levi and so living in this awful dystopian future, Adam is looking for a way out via the races.
Hofmeyr builds a bleak world with Stone Rider. In fact, a lot of this book reminds me of Blood Red Road which is an excellent read. There’s this feeling of a desolate landscape that creeps through the pages. This book is set in the desert after all, and the people within this book truly pin all of their hopes on the race. What I thought was cool was the bykes. They are almost magical. Each family passes their bykes down. Over time, the bykes become sort of infused with the spirits of the previous owner. I loved that concept. The bykes are solar powered as well. They typically only work during the daytime. Hofmeyr certainly has talent for building up action when it comes to the race and the use of the bykes.
I was a bit disappointed with the romance. The back cover of the book seems to promise an ‘improbable yet tender romance.’ Frankly, the romance is improbable, yes, but it it happens super quick. Sure, Adam has always been attracted to Sadie and it takes the bonding over something huge like the race to get them together. I was not buying it though. I think that if you are reading this hoping for a kissing book, you’ll be disappointed.
Finally, I do have to say that as cool of a character as Kane is – he’s covered in scars and much like the preacher in The Knife Of Never Letting Go, he just doesn’t die ever – I thought his character was a little unbelievable. It’s like Kane exists to get Adam out of trouble and to save Adam when he is in a tight spot. I mean, there were so many times during the book when it was down to the wire for Adam and then Kane comes out of nowhere and saves him. It kind of snapped me out of this book. I really could not suspend my disbelief.
Otherwise, Stone Road by David Hofmeyr is a fun debut. It’s actually action packed. The pace is never slow. The characters are mostly interesting. The technology within is intriguing. There’s a despot. And the race is simply everything. This is the perfect book to hand your reluctant reader.