By Ciaran J. McLarnon
Release Date: October 10, 2021
Review by Thomas Page
Imagine, for a moment, if someone came up to you and asked you to draw a circle around where you lived. What would you include? Who would be within your circle? Now, imagine that person taking that map and throwing it into the sea. You turn back to see everything within that circle dragged into the sea, never to be seen again. Ciaran J. McLarnon’s new novel New Shores presents a situation like this to Li, a hunter living 40,000 years ago, who loses almost everything in a tidal wave. The only remnant of his past life is his daughter, Su, who represents everything that he hates. Li and Su then must get on with their lives together to find a better life, meeting people along the way who lead them to better versions of themselves.
McLarnon’s Li embodies everything that the reader might expect of a hunter from 40,000 years ago: calculating, silent, and haughty. The novel is from his perspective and shows how this type of person behaves and talks to others, especially when he assumes that he is the future of his tribe. The conversations he has with his tribemates early in the novel shines a light on some of the themes McLarnon will discuss with the introduction of Og, a neanderthal, later in the novel. These themes range from the arbitrary distinctions we make about our bodies to the big, theological questions we have about the universe.
The style of the novel is fast-paced and direct, like its narrator. McLarnon establishes the setting and takes it away from his character as fast as a riptide. The main heart of the novel is seeing its characters interact with new environments and see new parallels with their old lives. McLarnon balances action and dialogue by generally starting chapters with movement, having a conversation in the middle, and ending on a cliffhanger. These moments show how the old Li acts in moments of danger and the new Li learns to appreciate the quiet moments. His conversations with Og and later Su especially highlight this character growth.
Although set in the past, McLarnon’s New Shores will ring for contemporary readers, especially during this recent era of uncertainty.
McLarnon’s New Shores was released by Atmosphere Press on October 10. It can be found at most major retailers.
Ciaran J. McLarnon is a Northern Irish writer who lives in the town of Ballymena, north of Belfast and close to dramatic scenery that has inspired many filmmakers and other artists. Renowned poet Seamus Heaney, winner of a Nobel Prize for literature, was born in the area and is one of many writers who inspire Ciaran.
Ciaran has a BSc in Marine Biology and an MSc in Ecology, both of which strongly influence his writing. Medical problems encouraged him to develop a life-long passion for fiction since that time. His continuing quest to hone his craft has explored many different subjects including history, the natural environment, horror and crime. Although this is his first novel, his words have featured in many publications, and he was long-listed for the Adelaide Literary award. More information on Ciaran J. McLarnon and his works is available at ciaranjmclarnon.blog.
Thomas Page is Editor-in-Chief of Academy of the Heart and Mind. He is also an MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of South Florida and has earned a BA and an MA from the Catholic University of America.