Source: Review copy
Publication: 16 February 2023 from Orenda Books
My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review.
Civilisation is collapsing. Frustrated and angry after years of denial and inaction, a ‘government of youth’ has taken power in North America, and deemed all those older than a prescribed age responsible for the current state of the world, and decreed they should be ‘relocated’, their property and assets confiscated.
David Ashworth, known by his friends and students as Teacher, and his wife May, find themselves among the thousands being moved to ‘new accommodation’ in the abandoned southern deserts – thrown together with a wealthy industrialist and his wife, a high court lawyer, two recent immigrants to America, and a hospital worker. Together, they must come to terms with their new lives in a land rendered unrecognisable.
As the terrible truth of their situation is revealed, lured by rumours of a tropical sanctuary where they can live in peace, they plan a perilous escape. But the world outside is more dangerous than they could ever have imagined. And for those who survive, nothing will ever be the same again…
This book blew me away. It is powerful, brutal and its world building feels so real many of the events produce a visceral reaction. Paul Hardisty gives us a great deal to think about in relation to how we got to the world he has envisioned. I read this over Christmas and there’s a line in this book that is still making we ponder how things could be different. I’ll come back to that later in this review.
Paul Hardisty is well-placed to envision this future.(Honestly, take a look at his bio – I get tired just reading it) He has spent twenty-five years working all over the world as an environmental scientist and you can feel the anger in his writing as his words bite and savage the irresponsibility of those who allowed the climate crisis to develop.
The Forcing is told by Teacher. He is a rational man who spends a lot of time refusing to be drawn into conspiracy theories, disinformation and the fake news that every day confounds millions of people. He and his wife May have one son who is now working for the new Government; a ‘government of youth’ that knows that the generation before is responsible for allowing the world to deteriorate to its current state and which is now holding them responsible by confiscating their property and assets and moving them out of their homes.
Where they are going is painted rather differently than it is in reality. Hardisty draws on previous terrible moments in the history of civilisation to show us how easy it is to re-invent the atrocities of the past.
But this is not a climate crisis book that preaches. It is a searing, tense and dramatic thriller that puts the reader into the position of Teacher and allows us to see what he sees and to experience the angst, pain and devastation that he witnesses and to make up our own minds about what these characters are living through.
Is this where the climate crisis will lead us? Paul Hardisty makes a compelling case based on facts and drawing on history and current events. It is no accident that big business has led us to see climate change activists as irresponsible nuisance makers while the pursuit of profit is what drives governments. Greed drives our progress to destruction just as it creates conflict and leads to wars.
Hardisty’s story is hard-hitting and sometimes very dark indeed. His writing is sharp and succinct and pulls you in to the story. He populates his story with characters that provoke profound emotions for good and bad, and his novel has real pace and verve as his characters try to escape a series of deadly regimes, some organised, others grown through self-serving ‘survival of the fittest’ battles. The adventures had me on the edge of my seat as much as the need to know what happens to the core team of characters he creates.
At the heart of this story is the paragraph that I am still thinking about today. “After the pandemic, there had been such hope around the world. Hope that perhaps, finally people would see the perils of ignoring science, the compounding dangers of inequality and global biodiversity loss, of delaying action on the really big challenges, the folly of putting the economy ahead of people, as if somehow we existed to serve the economy rather than the other way round.”
That strikes such a strong chord with me that it seems self-evident that we are getting the fundamentals wrong. I believe that Paul Hardisty has, through this remarkable thriller, shown us that there are different paths we can take; that different futures are possible. The natural world can and will recover if we treat it as a priority. We have made so many mistakes, and continue to do so, but we can grasp that hope and try hard to do better. But first, we have to ensure that we make our law makers listen.
The Forcing is Teacher’s story. A story about what an ordinary man will do to protect his family and the importance of relationships that give us something to live for. There is love and a lot of loss in this engrossing, searing and very gripping thriller. But there is also hope and that’s what makes this so profound and so very moving. I love this book and have no hesitation in saying everyone should read it.
Orenda Books Waterstones Bookshop.org
Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent twenty-five years working all over the world as an environmental scientist and freelance journalist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a in 1993, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen at the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. In 2022 he criss-crossed Ukraine reporting on the Russian invasion. Paul is a university professor and CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). The four novels in his Claymore Straker series, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, The Evolution of Fear, Reconciliation for the Dead and Absolution, all received great critical acclaim and The Abrupt Physics of Dying was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger and a Telegraph Book of the Year. Paul drew on his own experiences to write Turbulent Wake, an extraordinary departure from his high-octane, thought-provoking thrillers. Paul is a keen outdoorsman, a conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.
2 thoughts on “The Forcing by Paul E Hardisty @Hardisty_Paul @Orendabooks @RandomTTours”
That paragraph struck a chord with me too, Mary. An amazing book overall.
Thanks for the blog tour support. I thought this book was spectacular x