Thursday, 25 June 2015

'My Petrochemical Romance'

Gunnar Davíðsson’s review of ‘The Abrupt Physics of Dying’ by Paul Hardisty.


On New Year’s Eve if you had come up to me and told me that my favourite book of 2015 was going to be an ‘ecological thriller’ set in Yemen I would have laughed my ass off. In fact I would have rolled around in the snow laughing so hard that champagne would have come out my nose. And then everybody would have figured out that I’d been drinking. And then I would have assumed that you were drunk too. Really drunk. Shitfaced drunk in fact. I would have got back up on my feet, lit the rest of our fireworks and howled at the moon as you told me all about Claymore Straker and his Middle East antics in the pursuit of truth, justice and the Yemeni way. But I would have been wrong. And you my friend would have been very, very right. This is probably one of the biggest surprises I’ve had reading for quite some time.

An Afrikaans speaking ex-member of the South African Army, Claymore Straker finds himself in a very different field of work these days. He works the Yemeni oilfields doing environmental impact studies and procuring drilling licenses for some new faceless oil producing multinational. The locals are somewhat less endeared with his company’s work ethics than the local tax officials are as they watch their women and children dying from a mystery illness. So unimpressed in fact that Claymore and his driver are kidnapped and he is made an offer he can’t refuse. He is to uncover the cause of the sickness that is sweeping the community and publicise his findings or he will never see his friend and driver Abdulkader alive again. So he sets out on a mission to uncover what is happening to their water supply and in the process finds lies, pain, suffering and horrendous crimes on an international scale, and of course a girl. He is lied to, beaten up, shot at and loses a couple of fingers. And that’s just the first night with the girl. Boy oh boy!

The story is action packed, brilliantly paced and written in a voice that you simply don’t want to let go of. I found myself pulled back to its pages time and time again as I hungered to know what was going to happen to Clay next. At 430 pages it is a longer read than many other books I have read lately but is so beautifully written that you won’t mind it’s length one bit. In fact by the end you’ll find yourself wishing it was a little longer.

As I finished the book last night and put it down reluctantly for the last time my attention was instantly drawn to another tale of  unrest and injustice in the form of ‘Dirty Wars’ on RUV a real life tale of illegal killings and sanctioned assassinations by the US’s JSOC forces. The parallels are undeniable. The concerns of the Western world have literally become a law unto themselves. The difference between the ways our laws were written and the way they are now interpreted to suit the purposes of governments or multinationals has become truly disturbing. Lives count for nothing once they are viewed as an obstacle in the way of a money-making machine. It isn’t surprising that the West is hated the way it is and the saddest part is that we have brought this about ourselves.

When the sky is torn

When the stars are shattered

When the seas are poured forth

When the tombs are bust open

Then a soul will know what is given

And what is held back

So next New Year’s Eve my resolution will be to not blow champagne bubbles out my nose and to keep a much more open mind about what I will be reading in the year to come. I could have missed out on ‘The Abrupt Physics of Dying’ and that would have been a real tragedy.