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13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy - A Must Read Chemical Engineering Fiction Novel

It is one of my dream to write a chemical engineering related fiction novel. My wife knows that fact. It will be cool to integrate the experience which I had in the industry and my chemical engineering knowledge in a book which can be read by everybody (but special for chemical engineers and those who are in related industry). What if the novel is adopted to become one of those Hollywood movies. Would that be great? However, I don't think I can make it in the near future. It's quite tough especially with my hectic schedule and my main target to complete my Ph.D. Well, enough about that.

However, the actual interesting point that I would like to share is a new Chemical Engineering related fiction novel that has been introduced to me by a friend in the United States. Honestly, I have never come across a chemical engineering related fiction novel. When I was told about it, I became curious and want to read this novel. Luckily, with the help of my friend, Diane, I managed to grab hold of this novel and finally it reached me 3 days ago.

The title of this brilliant novel is 13 Days: The Pythagoras Conspiracy. The book is written by an author whom is also an experienced Chemical Engineer, Laura Starks. I was so excited and very eager to read the book upon receiving it. Back from work, I grabbed the book and read it at the playground in front of my house and continued reading for another 3 days until I finished.

My first impression of the book

The book is quite thick. It contains 347 pages. I wondered when can I finish reading this novel after holding it on my hand since I must also do my study, read and write technical papers, work on my thermodynamics etc. However, after reading the first 10 pages, I could not stop!!! The fatal incident that suddenly occurred in the newly bought over refinery made me dying to know what had actually happened. Was the deadly hydrogen sulfide gas accidentally released or was it an evil sabotage? I must say that the storyline is very interesting and intriguing. I'm very much amazed and impressed with the details that the author has shown in her writing. It's everything about the real situation in a typical refinery. From a decision either to stop a running plant (which will be tricky and dangerous) to continuing running the plant despite of the tragedy. Those who normally run a refinery pretty much know that the biggest challenge in running a refinery is during the start-up and stopping it. A mistake will possibly end up to an unwanted tragedy.

The safety, health and environmental elements were clearly displayed along the storyline, which can provide perfectly good visualization on the real life situation to chemical engineering students and readers who have never entered a plant in this lucrative industry.

The author also took the initiative to explain some of the technical unit operations that might not be understood by the readers such as the one below which is taken on the beginning of Chapter 2:-

Reactors: vessels in which raw feeds are transformed into chemically and structurally different products.

Catalytic cracking: key process for converting heavy oils into more valuable gasoline and lighter products. Average reactor temperatures are 900-1000 Fahrenheit.

And the following are other description taken from the beginning of Chapter 13:

Hydrocarbon: any of a large variety of molecules containing primarily carbon and hydrogen and ranging from methane, a gas, to asphalt, a solid.

Sour crude: crude oil containing half a percent or more of sulfur by weight. Sweet crude contains less than half a percent of sulfur. Sulfur in sour crude is removed to meet gasoline and diesel specifications. Its removal produces poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas which is converted to sulfuric acid and elemental sulfur and sold to industrial buyers.

Looking through the acknowledgment page, I know that this book was carefully written, edited repeatedly and the author was very careful about all bits of detail.

Again, I must say that this is a superbly very well written book and could even be a reference of example OR a small case study for some chemical engineering subjects like Process Safety, Unit Operation, Mass Transfer etc. although it is a fictional story. I will definitely read Laura Starks writing again if she comes up with a new book. That's for sure.

Editorial Reviews


"13 Days has an excellent plot....L.A. Starks has contributed a fine murder mystery to the genre." -- Alan Paul Curtis, Who-dunnit.com

"A knock-down conspiracy exposing the darkest secrets of the oil industry. Starks has made an impressive debut...." -- Michael Lucker, Screenwriter (Vampire In Brooklyn, Mulan II)

"A reverse femjep." -- Jack Quick - October 2006 BookBitch.com

Reviews from the Back Cover

A rogue force controlling the planet’s oil supply would hold a knife to its throat. The planet’s refineries, where oil becomes gasoline, may be an easier grab.

Lynn Dayton, 37, self-made refining executive, manages six vast complexes that transform oil into gasoline. Robert Guillard, 33, a suave Parisian intellectual believes, as did the cult around Pythagoras, that his genius confers moral authority. He directs the sabotage of US refineries, one by one. But his financing from an Asian refining cartel terminates in thirteen days unless he produces massive shutdowns.

Robert schemes to coerce Lynn into collaborating as he pursues his outwardly humanitarian goal of building refineries in Third World countries. If she refuses, he will hold hostage her sister, Ceil Dayton, 30, whom he has lured to Paris. Ceil, in turn, hides a brutal secret.

An industrial accident at Lynn’s troubled Houston refinery arouses her suspicions. Government officials conclude routine negligence caused the accident, but her own investigation leads Lynn to suspect sabotage.

Threats to Lynn’s life intensify. Desperate for the safety of her co- workers, whom she considers in greater danger, she works cease- lessly to find the real cause of the "accident" and the saboteur. Although her company security force notifies the FBI of her suspicions, the bureau considers her facts inadequate to justify adding resources. Within a few days, explosions and fires at nearby refineries claim victims. The resulting fuel shortage affects the lives of everyone in North America.

Then Lynn is kidnapped. She fights for her life on a catwalk above a storage tank of hot, sulfurous oil and escapes.

Deciphering the full extent of Robert’s scheme, she flies to Paris. But will she be in time to derail Robert’s plans and save her sister?


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The Author


I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!

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