The Abrupt Physics of Dying – Paul Hardisty
Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is
hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s oil-processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die.
As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is as it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA’s most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead.
A stunning debut eco-thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying is largely based on true events – the horrific destruction of fresh water and lives by oil giants. Gritty, gripping and shocking, this book will not only open your eyes but keep them glued to the page until the final, stunning denouement is reached.
Many thanks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my review copy.
The Abrupt Physics of Dying is a phenomenal debut from Paul Hardisty, an action packed thriller which highlights the corruption that comes with corporate greed. The characters are brilliantly realised too as we see some very human flaws come to the fore.
The Abrupt Physics of Dying is primarily set in Yemen and follows ‘Clay’ Straker, he is an Environmental Contractor working for Petro-Tex who have established an extremely profitable oil plant in a remote part of the country. It is Clay’s job to monitor potential contamination around the plant, keep the local authorities amenable and ensure Petro-Tex can continue to drill while they seek corporate support to expand their enterprise.
However, Yemen is a troubled country and in the opening chapters we see Clay kidnapped by a terrorist group who hold Clay and his driver, Abdulkader, hostage. The leader of the terrorist group wants Clay to prove that the Petro-Tex plant is poisoning the area around their plant and endangering the villages nearby. Clay is released from his captivity to expose Petro-Tex and highlight the danger their operations are causing, Abdulkader is kept as a prisoner. Clay has 8 days to prove the contamination and alert the relevant authorities to the danger. If he succeeds he will save his friend.
From this point on we are taken on a frantic race against time as Clay struggles to establish if his employers are complicit in endangering hundreds of lives. Clay can trust no-one in his quest for the truth as Petro-Tex will do all they can to block his investigations. The press are sympathetic but will need evidence before they go public with any allegations against Petro-Tex. Rania is the journalist on scene (and she provides a love interest too) but it is not clear if Rania is being honest with Clay or if she is working to her own agenda. Added to the mix is a psychotic Security Agent looking to silence Clay – permanently.
We quickly learn that Clay is no desk-jockey, he has military training and is more than adept at fighting his way out of a tight corner. A very useful trait as Clay finds himself in more than one tight spot as he battles to unravel a web of corruption. It can be a tricky balance between exposing your hero to a constant threat and making him an invincible fighting machine. Clay faces many tough scrapes and does not necessarily come through each incident unscathed. However, I wonder if the level of peril that he encounters may be slightly too much for some readers to accept given the serious tone of the rest of the book. Personally I love an action packed read so I had no concerns – this one kept me gripped.
It is not a full on action ride every step of the way. As the story develops we see Clay start to consider how his actions in the past may have aided corruption to go unchallenged. Following the paycheck he has smoothed diplomatic channels, paid officials and had favourable reports returned and generally turned a blind eye to areas out with his remit. Now, as he faces the potential catastrophe of Petro-Tex creating an environmental disaster, Clay considers his own involvement in the process and realises that he may personally have failed the people he is now trying to save. This self-realisation added an extra dimension to Clay, giving depth to the character and seemingly steeling his motivation to put an end to the damage that is occurring.
Environmental crime is not a theme I have encountered often. The technical knowledge to make it convincing may be a limiting factor for some or perhaps the scale of the impact too great to take on? However, no such concerns here as Paul Hardisty has constructed a relevant and very believable thriller. Sadly it is too easy to accept that a corporation may put business interests ahead of lives if they believed they could cover it up. The message I took from this was that the love of power and money will overrule any feelings of morality and that, for some, human life becomes meaningless in the face of profit.
The Abrupt Physics of Dying is not only the debut novel from Paul Hardisty, it is also the first novel published by Orenda Books. It is pleasing to see both author and publisher getting off to such a strong start. The Abrupt Physics of Dying is compelling reading and tackles subject matter not often encountered: I urge you to grab this book, it is both dynamic and different and I enjoyed it immensely.
The Abrupt Physics of Dying was published by Orenda Books and is available now from the Kindle Store. A physical copy of the book will be in shops from March 2015.