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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(3 star). See all 39 reviews
TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 18 February 2009
14 March 2003. The world watches on as the United States and her allies prepare for the controversial invasion of Iraq. What happens next is totally unexpected: a field of energy materialises over the North American continent, stretching from north-east of Newfoundland to just north of Acapulco, and from just south-east of Seattle to a few miles north of Guantanamo Bay. Virtually the entirety of the continental United States, most of populated Canada and almost all of Mexico and Cuba are affected. Within the 'Wave', as it becomes known, every single living being is instantly incinerated, but the cities are left intact. However, the Wave remains, sealing off the continent to outsiders.

The United States government is annihilated, leaving its military - the overwhelming majority of which is on deployment outside the affected zone - leaderless. Hawaii, Alaska and the tiny surviving portion of Washington State attempt to keep the American flag flying, but the effective loss of the strongest nation on Earth is catastrophic. The world economy goes into meltdown and elements in the Middle-East, proclaiming the Disappearance to be a miracle, prepare for a cataclysmic showdown with Israel, now bereft of its most powerful benefactor and protector. Smoke from the burning American cities turns into a massive plume of toxic smog which encircles the northern hemisphere. As the weeks pass, ethnic tensions begin to tear France and the United Kingdom apart. Iran musters its forces to destroy the US forces in the Gulf. China's threatening moves towards Taiwan are abandoned when its internal economy, dependent on exports to the USA, collapses. Japan and South Korea finds themselves overstretched having to feed Hawaii. Australia and New Zealand are swamped by American refugees. Venezuela makes threatening moves towards the former US possessions in the Caribbean. Saddam Hussein, given a reprieve by fate, musters his forces for a renewed invasion of Kuwait as the coalition pulls out and begins to head home. The world is falling apart and it is up to a few people scattered across half the globe to begin the process of pulling it back together.

Without Warning is the first of a duology. The sequel, After America, will follow next year. This book had the potential to be both a thriller and sociological study, attempting to ask what would be the effects of the USA literally vanishing off the face of the globe. Unfortunately, this approach is undermined by the book's thriller side, which demands subplots involving a US intelligence agent fighting a clandestine extremist organisation in the streets of Paris and a pair of beautiful-and-tough female smugglers in the Pacific engaging in major gun battles and speedboat chases with sinister Mexican maritime warlords. Around the time that Britain seals its borders and begins forcibly deporting third and fourth-generation Muslim immigrants and Israel starts dishing out the nukes like they're going out of fashion, any claim the book had to seriously analyse what would happen to the world in the absence of the United States goes out the window.

What we are left with is a somewhat trashy, although still enjoyable, techno-thriller with a batty premise. It's all fun, but a bit on the forgettable side. This is a shame as the author's previous work, the alternate-history Axis of Time trilogy, was much more successful in exploring its premise (if the military leaders of WWII, particularly the Axis ones, knew in 1942 the future history of the war, what would they do to change the outcome?). Without Warning is entertaining hokum, but fails to answer its questions in any real depth.

Without Warning (***) is a fast-paced read which passes the time, but could have explored its premise a bit more effectively.
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on 21 November 2012
I read this following on from a previous John Birmingham trilogy as I thought the story would be interesting. I wasn't wrong, the concept of this book is that most of America has vanished/vaporised and this is the real strength of this book. However the real let-down of this book is the characters, a real mix of believable and unbelievable people.
At the beginning I loved how the book jumped around, but towards the middle it began to get irritating. People would be left in certain predicaments and you would have to read 5/6 chapters to make sure they were ok. Dont mind reading a few pages, but think best part of a 100 and you've forgotten what the problem was.
Overall a good read.
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on 9 October 2014
The story is quite good but it isn't brilliantly written. The quote on the front of the book about exuberantly describing Military hardware is a bit of a reach. It appeared much more like the author new some acronyms and used them heavily. Also I hope he got paid by a fair bit by Sony for describing every flatscreen TV as a Sony Flat Panel. Overall an OK read and the story isn't bad but it doesn't get much above average I am afraid.
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on 16 October 2013
This is what I call a flick read - story was good, but there were large sections where I could just scan the pages and it didn't interest me. So, flick onto the next section that has some relevance. A long book with only a few really interesting bits. Could have been shorter with less padding.
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on 12 February 2013
The concept is a sound one and the writing is strong but unfortunately the story side tracks into some conspiracy theories & then politics that make the overall premise stagnant unfortunately this leaves the reader feeling like the overall story stalled.
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on 29 April 2009
Having read the author's "Axis of Time" trilogy and quite enjoyed it, I approached this, the start of a new trilogy, with reasonably high expectations. Overall I found it a bit of a let-down.

The technique used is that much used by Harry Turtledove:

(a) Invoke a premise that stands the world as we know it on its head; and
(b) Tell stories - lots of different (and completely unrelated) ones from different people in different places - about its consequences.

In this case, an energy wave of unknown origin and bordered by a vast curtain stopping just short of Seattle on the one hand and Guantanamo Bay on the other, wipes out all of life in those parts of the USA, Canada and Mexico that are behind it (in some ways it reminds me of the change in physical laws in S.J. Stirling's "Dies the fire"). This happens just prior to the planned invasion of Iraq, which, as you can imagine, spoils somewhat the preparations for that particular affair. And, as can be imagined, the sudden removal from the scene of the world's major heavyweight causes all sorts of other nasty things to crawl out of the woodwork to exploit the vacuum.

The idea is no more preposterous than that of the transport of a 21st century battle fleet to the WW2 Pacific theatre, but somehow I found the story-telling more pedestrian and the characters and events less engaging than those of "Axis of Time". Indeed, I found myself reading it at least partially out of determination to try to get something more approaching my money's worth. As a result, I'll buy the other two books only if offered at a price I can't refuse.
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