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* - Chain-Gang All-Stars




She felt their eyes, all those executioners...

Enter a world where, watched by millions, prisoners fight like gladiators for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

Welcome to Chain-Gang All-Stars, the popular and highly controversial programme inside America's private prison system. In packed arenas, live-streamed by millions, prisoners compete as gladiators for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

Fan favourites Loretta Thurwar and Hamara 'Hurricane Staxxx' Stacker are teammates and lovers. Thurwar is nearing the end of her time on the circuit, free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares for her final encounters, as protestors gather at the gates, and as the programme's corporate owners stack the odds against her - will the price be simply too high?


I always love to read speculative fiction and sci-fi and the idea of a prison system with a gladiator style televised fight to the death competition to win their freedom was intriguing.

The book follows quite a few points of view, from the main storyline of Loretta Thurwar and Hurricane Staxx; female prisoners at the top of their game, as well as fans of the competition, new recruits and protestors. This switching of perspective really didn’t work for me, we didn’t settle on one person enough to really get a proper insight into their storyline. Some of the characters were very forgettable and the chapters weren’t signposted well enough to tell you whose point of view you were in which was jarring as you tried to work it out.

I liked the sci-fi elements - the wristbands the prisoners wore which would attach them to magnets or stop them from speaking without punishment depending on the colours they glowed was interesting. The book also made important commentary about what constitutes as entertainment and how easy it was for some people to become invested in death. The sponsorship angle also hammered this home as well. The author seemed to rely a little too heavily on footnotes to give important exposition or explain certain historical events which would have worked better if they had been seamlessly woven into the narrative. This wasn’t helped by the way the ARC was formatted on my Kindle – with the asterisks being so small I couldn’t really see them and the footnotes themselves sometimes being pages away at the end of the chapter, so by the time I’d gotten there I’d forgotten why they were relevant.

I must admit that I got to over 50% of this book and realised that I’d essentially been procrastinating picking it up – a book which I should have finished in a few days took me weeks to get halfway. Although the premise really interested me, the reality was dry, a bit bland and with so many points of views, confusing. I DNFd it for now, and although I may come back to try and pick it up again, right now, this was not the book for me.

Overall, Chain-Gang All-Stars should have been an absorbing, fast paced read but it just felt bland and a little boring. Thank you to NetGalley & Random House UK, Vintage & Harvill Secker for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.


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