The Black Demons

One glance at the cover of Chris McInally’s latest effort and you’d properly assume that he’s written a novel featuring a super-sized prehistoric shark.  

That’s sort of correct. Relict is actually about three gigantic prehistoric sharks. Specifically sharks that were previously thought to be extinct for millions of years. 

These Carcharodon megalodon were large—three times larger than a great white shark. They were sixty-foot, sixty-ton killing machines, the ultimate apex predators. Local fishermen ominously called them Los Demonios Negros.

Recent activity in the Baja Peninsula had caught the attention of Dr. Aloysius Mackenzie, a marine biologist who specialized in endangered species. “I am convinced the Sea of Cortez is home to a small—but stable—population of a relict species,” he explained. 

If you don’t know the meaning of “relict,” don’t worry. McInally gives the reader a succinct one-paragraph explanation. It’s a biological term referring to a species once abundant throughout the world, but now restricted to one area—a Kiwi bird for example or a platypus.

Mackenzie knew something huge was stalking the Baja Peninsula, and his gut told him it was a shiver of megalodon. Naturally, his colleagues (most notably submersible pilot Athena Walker, ex-Navy with a double-degree in applied physics and aqua-nautical engineering) couldn’t endorse such a crazy theory. That changed overnight when a chewed up whale washed ashore on La Paz’s Playa Balandra.

If you’re familiar with Apex, McInally’s first novel (read my review here), you already know his shark action is first-rate. After five years, I’m happy to see him return to a sub-genre that suits him so well.

Some of McInally’s non-shark action is iffy, however. Humor often falls flat (the “OK, Boomer” joke won’t age well, I predict), and the snippy dialogue between Dr. Aloysius and his nephew made me wince every time.

But like I said, the action perks up considerably when McInally writes about his sharks. He calls them “vengeful spectres from the Underworld,” and “mountains of flesh and teeth.” The open maw of one megalodon is “reminiscent of a black hole set to swallow a planet.”

He even gives us a little bit of shark sex. “Shockwaves permeated the water as the smaller megalodon rammed its would-be mate. The goliaths sank, the male forcing the female into the depths. Blood spurted as he clamped his teeth around one of the female’s pectorals. Next, he brought his belly flush against hers. With the female trapped, the male inserted one of his claspers into her cloaca, depositing his sperm. Then it was over. Letting go of his mate’s pectoral fin, the male broke away. He fled, plunging toward the abyss.” Depending on your kink, this could be the best part of the entire novel.

[Relict / By Chris McInally / First Printing: September 2021 / ISBN: 9798486427695]