Book Review: The Abrupt Physics of Dying


The Abrupt Physics of Dying, by Paul E. Hardisty, is an action packed contemporary thriller set in the Yemen. It explores the hubris of the wealthy and powerful who believe that they are above the law. It lays bare the secretive and incestuous relationships between politicians and big business.

The protagonist, Clay Straker, is a contract engineer working for an oil company. His job involves getting environmental reports written and passed, often by nefarious means, in order that his clients may be seen to be complying with international regulations as regards local water supplies and air quality, regulations intended to provide safeguards for the indigenous population.

When Clay is forced at gunpoint to confront the reality of his client’s operations he finds himself a pawn in a dangerous game. With civil war breaking out around him he uncovers lies and secrets that are costing lives. The more layers he penetrates in the various organisations with which he is forced to become involved the harder it becomes to trust anyone.

Clay is a typical all action hero with a murky past. He is ex-military and his training enables him to survive violent encounters with those sent to stop him. He has the inevitable sexual liaison with an attractive woman who he probably shouldn’t trust but talks openly with anyway. So far, so predictable.

Where this book stands out is the fantastic writing, the stunning imagery. The author evokes the heat, the fear, the colour, smells, and tension of each scene. I may not have warmed to the characters but I felt that I was there with them, feeling what they were feeling and thereby gaining a better understanding of why they acted as they did.

Despite the shouting and gun waving I felt sympathy for the so called terrorists and extremists whose land was being plundered, something that the western media does what it can to suppress. Within the plot the reader is shown how populations are manipulated into supporting damaging causes for economic benefit. Distant races are dehumanised and presented as a threat. Those who do nothing become passively complicit in allowing the rape of lands to sustain the power and influence of the few.

These messages, whilst uncomfortable to consider, are a part of the plot but do not overshadow what is a fast moving and compelling story. The intrigue is gripping, the characters complex, the denouement satisfying.

This is the first book released by Orenda Books. It is an impressive debut for both author and publisher.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Orenda Books.