Review: Without Warning / Author: John Birmingham / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: Out Now
Originally published Stateside in 2008, Australian writer John Birmingham’s apocalyptic trilogy – sequels After America and Angels of Vengeance are imminent – arrives in the UK with Without Warning, the first page-turning instalment. In an alternate 2003, the US armed forces are on the verge of invading Iraq when the impossible happens: America vanishes. Or, to be more accurate, it is encompassed (along with parts of Canada, Mexico and most of Cuba) by a quivering, shimmering force field behind which everything is ablaze. The aftermath sees survivors thrown into disarray, the country’s opponents celebrating the destruction of the ‘enemy’ and, inevitably, the planet’s delicate infrastructure slipping slowly into confusion and chaos.
Without Warning is a big book bursting with big ideas and it’s a blisteringly good read. Birmingham deftly keeps several narrative plates spinning: The confused and disorientated remnants of the American military forces. A bunch of gun-happy smugglers aboard a recovered super yacht. A veteran reporter trying to cover front-line life in the wake of unimaginable catastrophe. And a female deep cover anti-terrorist agent with a fatal illness on the run in the streets of Paris. Behind it all is the fear and terror of a world on the brink of social, political, fiscal and military collapse and the mystery of the cause of this devastating energy field (you’ll need to invest in the rest of the series to find out, we suspect, because Without Warning offers no easy answers).
Birmingham knows his stuff for sure: there’s a near-fetishism to his descriptions of military hardware and technology. But he’s at home with human drama too, the suffering of those who have lost loved ones and those who are just trying to cope with unthinkable disaster. Nonetheless he loves his action set-pieces and there’s a lively cinematic quality to the various gun battles and car chases. These, combined with Birmingham’s tough, macho prose, make Without Warning a gritty, compelling pedal-to-the-metal action blockbuster of Hollywood proportions. Grab some popcorn and settle down for a long, exciting read…