The Evolution of Fear by Paul E Hardisty

Evolution-of-FearIt can be difficult going about a review of a second novel in a series. What are you going to say about the second instalment that you didn’t say about the first? Have you already used up all of the best comparisons and contrasts and so you can’t help repeating yourself? Given that we are talking here about a thriller you begin to wonder did you use “adrenalin rush” or “rollercoaster” for book one.

All of those concerns lie before me as I try to put together a fair and yet fresh review of The Evolution of Fear by Paul Hardisty. Last year I reviewed his first novel The Abrupt Physics of Dying and told you that in Clay Straker he had given us a leading man who could one day compare with Bond and Bourne. What can I tell you now, other than that day has already come.

I hardly want to say anymore. You don’t want me giving away any of the intricacies of the plot but I can tell you that we quickly sail from Cornwall to Turkey and Cyprus. We are again faced with not only brutal international criminals but also environmental disaster and Clay Straker is again taken to the very limits of human endurance as he tries desperately to maintain his own sanity and the safety of those he loves.

The action starts straight away with Straker in hiding with a price on his head. Discovered and possibly betrayed he is forced to move and try to grab the initiative. He seeks out Rania fearful that he has made her a target, with the intention of going into hiding together, but neither of them can realistically run away from a matter of conscience and always in the background is Clay’s torment from the sins of his past.

From the pages of this novel comes a high powered adrenalin shot that has you diving into an adventure fraught with danger. Occasionally you will come up for air, to remind yourself that this is not happening to you but to characters on a page, but those characters will so grab your attention and your concern that they will come alive as you cling onto them for a ride into a murky world of politics, capitalism and crime.

This is dynamite thriller writing and Clay Straker is an affecting and memorable lead character and it is the drawing of the characters that is crucial to elevate Hardisty’s work from set piece action to something you genuinely care about. I have said previously that Straker was made for the big screen but perhaps there is an example in Jason Bourne of how the transference from novel to movie can diminish that depth of involvement that the original trilogy possessed but which the films could not capture.

Hardisty is already an award winner and surely more recognition will follow as he proves now that he is not a one hit wonder but can deliver some longevity. More than awards though his writing deserves to be read and enjoyed, thriller fans should be waiting excitedly for every new release knowing that with Hardisty on the spine they are guaranteed something special. I would happily position him as a Ludlum for a new time, he provides us with classic thrills in an up to date and relevant context. He should be on the best seller lists and thriller fans should be queuing up to put him there.


The Abrupt Physics of Dying by Paul E Hardisty

AbruptPaul Hardisty has delivered a thriller of the highest quality with The Abrupt Physics of Dying, which is published by Orenda Books, initially as an e-book, on Monday. As an entertainment it keeps the pages turning relentlessly as truth is glimpsed and then lost in uncertainty and deception, and as a story of our times it highlights the powers lurking in shadows, moving their pawns around a global chess board and casting lives into the abyss for the sake of power and profit. This is a must read novel for fans of the genre and already Claymore Straker has shown the potential to one day stand in the company of such luminaries as Bond and Bourne.

Most of the action takes place in Yemen and the setting is wonderfully described such that the reader is immersed in its geography and positioned right in the midst of events. Straker himself is flawed. His past is dark and haunts him. Up to now he has managed to bury the nightmares in a grim determination to simply do his job, never questioning his conscience, but no longer. Drawn into a devout culture he is forced to reflect on his actions and face his reckoning.

Hardisty’s own CV shows many years’ experience as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist who has lived and worked in the Middle East. Born in Canada he now lives in Australia where he is a university professor and a Director of Australia’s national science agency.  He also describes himself as a pilot, sailor and explorer, who competes in ironman triathlons for fun. It’s not hard to see where the authenticity of the writing comes from as “Clay” explores the science, and the corruption of science, of oil production in Yemen.

The action is intense and violent, but the storytelling is rooted in character and culture, it has a depth that you connect with. As events unravel in front of Straker you join him in trying to understand the different agendas and perspectives that are demanding his help and loyalty. The blurred lines in his internal struggle leave room for you to wrestle with your own values and beliefs. We all make judgments every day even on the very fringes of global issues and we all turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice, allowing us to forget our part and take the easy option.

The narrative twists and turns, you have no more idea than Straker who to trust, who to believe, and you share in his fear and frustrations. It is a roller coaster ride of a read and the strength of the visual imagery seems to make it an ideal candidate for conversion to the cinema screen. If the second instalment in Straker’s story, which is due for release in around a year’s time, continues to deliver at this level then it will surely attract such attention. This is intelligent writing that both entertains and challenges and it deserves a wide audience.


The Abrupt Physics of Dying is published as e-book on December 15th