Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review of The Science of Paul by Aaron Philip Clark (New Pulp Press, 2010)

Paul Little is a listless ex-con, searching for direction and a path through life.  He’s just buried his grandfather in rural North Carolina and has headed back to Philadelphia with Tammy, his beautiful girlfriend.  Paul knows that she is too good for him and he hates the fact that he is living off of her kindness.  In a moment of disquiet and self-loathing he walks out, stepping back onto the mean streets of the city, streets that have their own science.  He heads to a local barbershop owned by another ex-con known for helping people to get back on their feet.  There he gets a job offer.  All he has to do is collect an item and pass it on to another party.  The fee will help to keep him ticking over now he’s no access to Tammy’s purse.  He agrees but then decides that he wants to cut out of the city and head back to his grandfather’s farm and start over.  He passes the job onto an old friend intent on catching a bus the following morning.  Only during the night his friend is shot dead.  Undaunted, Little tries to flee the city, but people and events conspire against him time after time.  He’s left to wander the streets with a copy of David Hume’s The Science of Man trying to resolve the challenges thrown in his path.

The Science of Paul is a thoughtful book with an undercurrent of philosophy concerning urban society and the meaning of life.  The main character is complex and multi-layered.  He’s seemingly got his life back on track after prison - a nice home and a beautiful, caring girlfriend - yet deep down he knows he doesn’t belong, that he doesn’t deserve this life, that he needs to find a different path, yet he’s not sure what that path is.  Clark tells his tale through a well plotted and paced story full of astute observations about American urban societies.  And whilst the story is predominately an in-depth character study, it’s also one of murder and crime, with the mystery as to who killed Little’s friend subtly woven into the narrative.  Overall, an enjoyable crime novel that ploughs a different furrow to most fiction in the genre to good effect.


Paul D Brazill said...

Spot on review.

I have a guest blog from Aaron over at my place, if you fancy a gander.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sounds perfect for me. Thanks.

Rob Kitchin said...

Patti, I think you'll like it.

Paul, thanks for the link.