The Descent by Paul E Hardisty

3 Mins read
The Descent by Paul E Hardisty front cover

The Descent is the follow-up to the 2023 eco-thriller The Forcing by Canadian author Paul E Hardisty. Once again, the environment is front and centre in Hardisty’s post-apocalyptic world, with the author conjuring a clear image of the careless way we have allowed the gradual destruction of our planet. The Descent is both a compelling story and a cry for immediate action to preserve the Earth. It is a book that will engage both your emotions and your intellect.

This is an ambitious book, with two narrative threads. The first gives us further background to what took place in The Forcing, while the second carries on that story, set in the 2060s. Multiple settings are used in both narrative threads. In spite of the complexity, Hardisty manages to create a riveting, easy-to-follow plot around real world environmental issues that will grab your attention.

After the death of Teacher, the protagonist in The Forcing, his family continue to live a simple life in Australia. His son and step-son have been broadcasting Teacher’s journals, unaware whether anyone is listening. They are surprised one day to get a response from a woman who does not identify herself but who begins to describe her role in the destruction of the environment and world order. She later refers to herself as Sparkplug.

Teacher’s step-son, Kweku, notices that some of the journals are missing. When he asks Francoise, his mother, what happened during the time frame of the missing journals, she evades his questions. There are things in the past she wants left there. Later, she shares some details of a horrific event near the town where she met his birth father in Africa. She urges Kweku to go to Africa to learn more about what happened there.

Some tragic events accelerate Kweku’s desire to discover more about his family background in Africa. He, his wife Julie and their young son Leo set off on a voyage of discovery on Teacher’s boat, Providence. On their travels, which extend beyond Africa, they gain a better understanding of world events and are exposed to different variations of governance by those who have managed to survive. You will see the new world through their eyes. It is not all smooth sailing for them and they encounter many dangerous situations.

Interesting as their journey is, it is the radio messages from Sparkplug about her role in the past that will get your blood boiling. The tales shared by her start in February 2024 and they are truly terrifying, as much of what she describes sounds like it has been torn from today’s headlines. As the personal assistant and part-time lover of a corrupt billionaire, she had access to plans involving the manipulation of world events to increase profits. We live in a time where most of the world’s wealth is controlled by a small group of multi-billionaires.

Hardisty explores the dangers of a small group having such immense influence and what lengths those individuals are willing to go to in order to maintain their wealth and power. The plan conceived by these individuals is truly diabolical. This group has no concern for mankind or the planet. They take crimes against humanity to a whole new level. Hardisty uses current world events like the pandemic, misinformation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine to ground the book in realism.

What we get is a believable vision of our future. In addition to being a terrific writer, Hardisty has an extensive background in environmental engineering and conservation. His experience as an academic and as CEO at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has made the author a recognised authority in environmental science.

The Descent is the type of book that will stay with you long after you have read the last page. In spite of everything the characters endure on their journey and the fragile state of the world, Hardisty still offers a glimmer of hope. Kweku and Julie realise that it is still possible to see beauty in the world and in people. Along with that glimmer of hope comes a call to action. Rather than sleepwalking through what is happening in the world and to the environment, Hardisty makes it clear that we have a choice. We can speak up to bring about change.

Also see The Coming Darkness by Greg Mosse.

Orenda Books

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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