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Book Review: Blast Radius by R. L. McKinney


Superb storytelling in a tale of tenacity, hope and faith in tomorrow

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Blast Radius is a story about grief, guilt and recovery. It’s also a story of love and tenacity and of hope and faith in the future. This is a five star read.

The novel’s main character and its narrator is Sean McNicol. He has recently been invalided out of the Royal Marines after being injured while on active service in Afghanistan. The bomb explosion which killed his friend and comrade, Mitch has left Sean with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and deafness in one ear. He has returned to the small Scottish town where he grew up to try and rebuild his life.

The narrative is at times brutal, at times poignant and moving. It is always vivid. Sean’s rehabilitation involves the facing of demons, the effort to reconnect with friends and family, the struggle to make new connections and a new life. And through it all, Sean’s buddy, Mitch, is although dead, ever-present.

The other characters are all well written and realised. Amongst the main ones, there’s Sean’s stoical and hard-working sister Janet, who has been more like a mother to him and who continues to love and support him. There’s Molly and also Paula, both of whom he went to school with, both of whom are moving on in their own lives, and both of whom have an impact on his recovery. And then there’s his wonderful, big-hearted employer, Harry.

The setting of a small, rundown Scottish town is also well drawn. It provides an appropriate backdrop to lives blighted by poverty, alcohol and hopelessness, but the story moves beyond these confines. Sean ventures into the surrounding countryside when he’s out running and there he’s inspired by the beautiful landscape of the hills and moors of south central Scotland. His horizons are further broadened when he goes hiking in the rugged surroundings of the north of Scotland.

The broader themes of war and politics are also touched on, but it’s a light, non-preachy touch and all the more effective for that. Similarly the use of colloquial Scots dialect is effective but not overdone.

Type of read: Blast Radius is a stay-up-reading-far-too-late book. It has you at the first page and although you want to find out how it all it plays out, you don’t want it to end. Great stuff.

Blast Radiusis published by Sandstone Press and is available as a paperback and as an ebook.

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