A.G. Rivett’s The Seaborne is speculative fiction about modern-day engineer John Finlay, who leaves a failed business and relationship behind by hiring onto a fishing boat heading into the Atlantic.
When John wakes from an accident he can’t remember, he has been dragged from the sea by fishermen from a small island village, 1,000 years in the past. There he struggles to understand the culture and language. Gradually accepted into village life, he’s apprenticed to the village blacksmith.
To return their kindness, John wants to help, but his attempts to demonstrate electromagnetism with lodestones triggers suspicion that he’s using trickery. When he begins teaching the blacksmith’s daughter Shinane to read, tensions simmer as men worry that if women can read, they’ll want more than their traditional roles.
Then Shinane rejects a marriage proposal from Dermot, an angry, violent young fisherman who believes John has stolen her from him. He pursues John into the mountains, intent on murder, but during the chase, Dermot falls into a bog and dies. Although the fault isn’t John’s, he’s blamed by many villagers. John is subsequently forced into a challenge that becomes a spiritual quest, during which he embraces his new life.
The story is deeply and carefully imagined. John brilliantly tries to explain modern technology by cutting blades into a slice of turnip to demonstrate how a propellor works and compares the unimaginable number of people living in modern London to the number of leaves on the heather plants on a moor. The countryside is well described, the details and situations realistic, John’s struggles with language and culture compelling.
The Seaborne is about a man pushed to his limits, forced to go deep into himself to reassess what’s important in life. The book asks thought-provoking questions about what modern humans have given up in terms of community, faith and honor in favor of always grasping the new.
Readers will eagerly anticipate the next books in the trilogy.