The Evolution of Fear by Paul E Hardisty

Review published on September 29, 2016.

A long time back, about the time I started book reviewing, I asked the publisher Orenda Press for a copy of Paul E Hardisty’s first novel, The Abrupt Physics of Dying. The publisher asked if I wanted to wait to receive a hard copy or get a PDF straight away. Stupidly I chose the PDF, which I found hard to convert to read on my Kindle. Due to this I found it didn’t flow as I liked and while I gave the book a four-star review, I made a comment about Hardisty “writing too well”, meaning that he used lots of flowery language.

Now I’ve just read his second book, The Evolution of Fear and wow! Just wow! Paul Hardisty doesn’t “write too well”, a remark I regret and not something that’s possible to do, but he does write well, very well, bloody well in fact. This second novel picks off where the first ended, Claymore Straker is now a fugitive with a price on his head after his adventures in the Yemen. He’s hiding out in a cottage on the Cornwall coast when some South African mercenaries try to kill him. So right from the off we’re thrown into the action. Straker flees the country in a boat and heads to Cyprus in pursuit of Rania, the love of his life, who’s missing.

Hardisty’s descriptive prose brings every aspect of this novel alive. The violence in this novel isn’t excessive but when it comes it’s visceral. Landscapes are brought to life so that you as the reader feel like you’re there. He obviously knows his subjects or has done his research, the scenes on the yacht bringing the perils of sailing through an Atlantic storm to life. Most impressive of all however is a subtler thread which works its way through the novel. At heart, like his earlier novel, this is an eco-thriller. It’s plot revolves around the rich and powerful pillaging the Cyprus environment for profit, stealing land to turn into tourist resorts, the result being the destruction of turtle nesting sites and thus the endangerment of rare turtles.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as concerned with the environment as the next person, but one of the problems of Eco-activism is that the subject is often rather bland. I mean if someone said they were writing a thriller about endangered turtles you might be forgiven for politely stifling a yawn. But Hardisty makes you care. This novel sneaks up on you, grabs you by the lapels and demands that you give a shit. He does this by demonstrating an eternal truth: that behind such ecological devastation is greed, the same avarice that’s behind much of what’s wrong in the world, whether it’s organised crime, terrorism, state violence, nations encroaching on other nations, whatever. The villains in this novel are all too believable and you know that while their actions are harming turtles in this instance, it could be whales, dolphins, people the next. Indeed, lots of people are hurt in this novel, anyone trying to stop them stealing the land and harming the turtles. And is this not what really happens? Have we not read stories in the press about indigenous people being killed and persecuted when they try to stop multinationals from exploiting their environment for logging, oil and gas development, and yes, tourism?

All in all, this is a brilliant novel, one that’s both an entertaining page turner and a cerebral engagement with issues that affect us all. This is a 5 star read and I certainly look forward to Paul Hardisty’s next novel.

James Pierson 5/5

The Evolution of Fear by Paul E Hardisty
Orenda Books 978-1-91063-324-3 pbk 2016

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