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Without Warning by John Birmingham
Review by Steve Sawicki
Del Rey Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345502902
Date: 06 July 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In March of 2003 America suddenly goes quiet. Commanders staging in Kuwait can not raise the Pentagon. Foreign correspondents can not get in touch with their local offices. Television broadcasts coming out of America show empty studios and empty streets. Most of Canada has also gone quiet along with most of Mexico and Cuba. A short time later a shimmering curtain is discovered surrounding a teardrop shape outlining most of North America. Ships at sea sail out from the curtain crew-less. Planes flying through the curtain continue on until they run out of fuel and then crash. Satellite images show cars crashed on city streets, fires burning, and no people at all.

Left to put things together and try to figure out what the United States of America now encompasses, are a group of disparate individuals, some military, some civil, some just plain folks. Things quickly begin to unravel as the world realizes that not only is the big kid on the block gone but the big market on the block is now closed and the currency that the world trades in is now worthless. Things quickly begin to go to hell.

Subsequently, a female operative is being hunted in France, which has erupted into civil war between Muslim and non Muslim governmental factions. She has information that may save millions, but she is deep undercover in a country that has just been thrown back to the stone age.

This is a fascinating scenario both in the originating situation but also in the sections that Birmingham chooses to leave untouched. It is also an intriguing look at the military/civil interface and how, while the military would be fast in reacting to such a disaster they very quickly run up against the lack of civil authority which provides much of the command termination. The position of President, as commander in chief, is critical to military operations, especially when it comes to global strategy and diplomacy. Birmingham jumps between settings to show how specific groups are making out--smugglers at sea, a small military force at Guantanamo, the state of Hawaii, the remains of Washington State, and forces abroad in Kuwait, Iraq and France.

The action in this book is non-stop and Birmingham does an excellent job with the pacing and plotting. At times it takes a moment to reorient as you jump from Seattle to Cuba to Iraq and back again but it's all good. Birmingham addresses both the global issues that such an occurrence would create along with the personal and smaller, civil issues that would arise such as managing distribution networks. This is the first book in a series (maybe a trilogy) so be prepared for the cliff hanger right at the end. Highly recommended. A great and entertaining read.

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