“Have you ever wondered what life would be like without TV, airplanes or telephones?” So starts the blurb on the back cover of the book with its glossy cover and beautiful artwork by Antonio Seijas. This work of fiction by Dave Foster is in the fantasy genre and doffs its cap to many influences. It is a sort of cross between early Tolkien and Pullman and lots more in between. It will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It never tries to dress itself up to be something that it is not. It’s unashamedly an allegory about the dangers of global warming, climate change and a quest for a source of free, sustainable, clean energy; but looking beyond any hidden depths that it may contain, it’s simple, to the point, and a classic tale of three friends on a quest.
“The Balloon Race is set in a fictional world where it hasn't seen World War I or World War II and as the phrase 'Necessity is the mother of invention' suggests, these wars brought on great leaps in technology, most of our modern comforts are yet to appear in this world. This story follows a small group of friends on their journey to seek a better life away from the dismal and smokey town that they live in. Ballooning is the mode of long distance travel here in a country where the state controlled coal factories belch out dark fog over its occupants, there are alternatives but the illegitimate King of Anvil wouldn’t benefit from them and isn’t keen on his subjects discovering these alternatives and will stop at nothing to make sure it stays that way.”
Dave states in his introduction that he is not a writer. With the book being written in the third-person, subjective present tense, personally I did find the first few pages quite difficult to read. It reminded me very much of the early chapters of The Hobbit in the charming way that Tolkien describes Bilbo and the Shire. I persevered and the story overcame my personal difficulties in reading the tale. Dave’s writing improves as the book progresses, so he should be congratulated. The grammar or punctuation are not 100% correct and a bit more proof-reading before publication wouldn’t have gone amiss in my opinion (e.g. “The law that states that it is illegal to uses anything other than coal as a fuel source...” and “The Watch is on organisation that polices Anvil...”). But again, I was able to overcome that and enjoy the story. The interaction between the characters and the growth and change of the main character, was interesting. It is interspersed with moments of humour that did have me chuckling. These moments of humour weren’t necessary to the telling of the story, but they were a welcome addition nonetheless. How well did the book meet its goals? It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but if you want to be taken on a journey and read a story with a beginning, middle and end, then this book has certainly achieved its objectives.
If you are looking to read a classic tale about the journey that three friends have on a quest to improve the way of life in their world, then I do recommend it. It will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Oh, by the way Dave, I did enjoy it and you ARE a writer! You’ve inspired me to finish my own novel. As you say, “It’s in the finishing of a story where the joy lies”. I bet you had fun writing the book. Can we have a sequel to The Balloon Race please!
The paperback version of Dave's novel can be ordered via:
Buy The Balloon Race [Kindle Edition] via this link: