Book Review: The Raffle by Randy Smith

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The Raffle 
Randy Smith 
Rude Cat, 2019

♦♦♦♦
4 Stars

 

Gathered together into one volume, Randy Smith’s The Raffle was originally written and released as a series of four novellas. Now gathered together into one volume, long time and new readers can now experience the story as one continuous work. While the serialization of The Raffle certainly left many readers itching to get their hands on the next installment, having the entire story collected together affords a new pleasure. It’s the satisfaction of both delayed gratification and immediacy at once.

Smith’s novel while certainly dystopian and speculative exists outside most categories of science fiction or even speculative fiction. His narrative is inventive, the world detailed (quite familiar yet eerie), and the journeys of his characters challenging on an emotional and visceral level. These are the kind of story arcs we see in shows like The Walking Dead or in the early fiction of Stephen King such as The Dark Tower series or The Long Walk (this early work in particular seems to wield a positive influence, known or not, over Smith’s inventive novel). We ache alongside these characters at once empathizing and furiously shocked by their decisions. Ultimately, it’s this kind of reader response which makes The Raffle such a success; it is a work that doesn’t just demand our mind’s attention but fills our heart with adrenaline.

In the near future, Ramsey Arami lives in a splintered reality in a shorn Los Angeles. It is a place ravaged by biological, nuclear, and technological attacks leaving southern California shattered. The region fractures into four enclaves and exists outside of the New United States. Like his city, his state, and his nation, Ramsey is fractured. A decade of separation from his family, wife and daughter, may be coming to an end as he makes it through the eponymous cruel and byzantine process to repatriate. Smith has given us a unique immigrant story or, rather, an emigrant story.

Giving readers a touch of nearly every dystopian flavor (a rampant virus, grim and literal urban decay, suspect government, cruel AI, the human drive to build and keep united family), Smith lets his story unfold with deliberate ease. Fans of speculative fiction will certainly find The Raffle to more than satisfying, and readers new to the genre will likely come away from it having set a high bar for other works. All in all, it is a distinctly compelling story because it is one that will travel with us as we interrogate the times we are living in.

 

About the Author

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The real person behind Randy Smith (a pen name) was born in Downtown L.A. in 1977. An avid punk rock fan, Randy played in several punk bands in the early to mid 90s. In college, Randy specialized in international relations and history. After teaching for a year, Randy moved to Washington, D.C. for law school. Randy has been a practicing attorney for the past sixteen years.

“Randy Smith” was conceived four years ago when his creator quit driving to work and opted for public transportation instead. Ditching his car was a life-changing decision. The long cross-town commutes on L.A. Metro trains and buses allowed Randy the creative space he needed to write The Raffle Series and several screenplays, including one film now in development. Randy is currently working on writing/screenwriting projects
while still working as a full-time attorney and on his other passions: husband, standup
comic/actor, law professor, public transportation activist, and podcaster.

 

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