Blast Radius – RL McKinney (2 stars)

Pedestrian tale of a soldier returning from combat fails to stand out from the crowd

Blast Radius – RL McKinney

The subject of war looms large in literature. Many great novels have explored the difficulties faced by a soldier returning from combat, the issue addressed by RL McKinney in her debut novel. Though the recognisable premise is sensitively handled, this pedestrian tale fails to stand out from the crowd.

Sean McNicol, the book’s troubled protagonist, who was saved from death in Afghanistan by his best friend Mitch, is tormented by the after-effects of the war. His hearing is damaged, but that doesn’t stop Mitch’s voice from filling his head on a daily basis. Now back in Scotland and living with his sister, he must learn to deal with his past, build a future for himself and finally silence his friend’s voice.

The novel’s basis is strong, but the story’s characters are poorly formed and rarely inspire a connection with the reader. The dialogue feels forced, unnatural and largely unbelievable, and the conclusion is as lacklustre as it is inevitable. The book’s potential was great, but frustratingly, it proves much less engaging than a story exploring war’s many battles has the capacity to be.

Out Thu 19 Feb, published by Sandstone

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