Readers familiar with Harold Meckler’s astronomy column in the PRT might expect that his new book “Chasing Light, and Darkness” would take place among the stars, or at least at an observatory, but in this case, light and darkness do not refer to the night skies and stars. Instead, Meckler takes his readers into a world of political intrigue and a dystopian scenario of the effects of climate change.
The narrator, and main protagonist, of the story is Sgt. Harry Zuca, a marine MP tasked with a secret mission to discover who is behind a series of murders along the U.S.-Mexico border. He enlists the aid of his best friend, Jason Broker, a brilliant physicist who is hoping to find enlightenment by making time disappear.
Broker lives in a run-down farm near Casa Grande and conducts his secret experiments in an isolated barn that becomes a hideout for the characters as Zuca uncovers a widespread plot to gain control of the world, starting with a takeover of the drug cartels in Mexico.
As Zuca follows clues from the west coast to New Jersey and back, he encounters Dr. Sega, a scientist from the University of Arizona who is sounding the alarm about climate change, two women in danger because of their association with one of the victims, as well as politicians, and thugs. He is also exposed to the physicists Heisenberg, Feynmann and Planck, as Broker shares his enthusiasm for the principles of physics that are driving his secret experiment.
Zuca’s quest to find answers to the series of murders will keep readers engaged, even those with little interest in physics. Meckler brings a cast of interesting characters to the story, and has inserted enough action and dead bodies to satisfy fans of political thrillers and mysteries. Broker, as a sort of mad scientist laboring away in his secret lab, is an effective foil for Zuca, the man of action, and both characters, as well as Broker’s invention, play an important role in uncovering the conspiracy that threatens global stability.
Although the plot strays into science fiction, the threat to global security that Meckler warns us about is all too real. As an example of the effects of global warming, Dr. Sega describes the future of the Middle East, saying, “The Middle East is going to undergo grave consequences. Its deserts will grow. The temperature will become even hotter… Agriculture will suffer. As a result, rural populations will move to the cities and disrupt balances that have been in place for years. Then, as more and more nations move to green energy sources, the price of petroleum will decrease, leaving governments with less money to address new issues as they arise.”
Meckler does offer some hope for the future of the planet. In the end, the conspiracy is thwarted. The question of whether we are too late to save the planet hangs over the book, but Zuca concludes that “We could change everything if we simply chose to.”