NEAR HAVEN by Matthew Stephen Sirois


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Sirois' promising debut is an apocalypse novel with a twist.

It's 1987, and Tom Beaumont, an apprentice boat builder in Maine, is coming to grips with impending catastrophe: a comet is streaking toward Earth, and its impact, less than a year away, is said to be both unavoidable and fatal for humanity. Civil society has begun collapsing: long-distance communication is faltering; food and fuel are growing ever scarcer; many townsfolk have fled, the infirm have died, and suicide is epidemic. Tom is a thoughtful loner and a skeptic—a "shomee"—but he's too hermitlike and too taciturn to be much of a revolutionary. The book is full of action scenes, as Tom encounters ragtag paramilitaries, a corrupt and venal church, feral animals, a band of pirates...and all this mayhem takes place on home ground. Sirois' intriguing innovation is to keep the focus hyperlocal: Tom strays as rarely as possible from his seaside village or from the dockside workshop where he lives. He's either going to die from the impact or ride it out, but either way he'll be here. The result is a book that focuses not on geopolitics or conspiracy theories or the truth/untruth of the prediction of doom but on Tom's elemental interactions with the land, the weather, marauders, his few remaining friends, and the wreckage of civilization. During the lean, cold winter he even comes, unexpectedly, to appreciate this simpler, more violent, and brutish world. Survival turns out to be the full-time, full-commitment job he's yearned for: "Books and televisions and washing machines were all just filters, ways he had kept the world at a distance. But the world, ignorant of these barriers, was still there." The prose can be florid, and there are occasional plot gaps or clichés, but when Sirois focuses on creating a chronicle of and meditation on life in a postindustrial hellscape, his book impresses.

A worthy addition to a genre pioneered by writers like Cormac McCarthy and Matt Bell: the post-human pastoral.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9973260-4-8
Page count: 329pp
Publisher: Belle Lutte Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2017