Without Warning by John Birmingham
An interesting and well written alternate history/Science Fiction novel set in the VERY near past.
Just before G.W.Bush's invasion of Iraq, a mysterious force field settles over the North American continent and turns every primate on most of the continent into a puddle of goo. All that remains of the North American nations and the USA, are the western half of Canada, Mexico, south of Acapulco, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the N.W. part of Washington State, Hawaii, and Alaska. That and the roughly 5 million Americans in other parts of the world for various reasons at that time. Presumably, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are fine, though they play no part in this story.
What's worse, the force field remains functional and shows no indication of leaving anytime soon; so the thought of being able to use North America's incredible agricultural capabilities to continue feeding the world seems unrealistic at best.
What this means is that most of America's military power remains intact but with the entire line of succession dead, there is no controlling civilian authority. However, with 2 and a half viable, albeit hungry and overcrowded states, and an additional 5 million expats scattered about the world, and the US military poised for war, the USA is in the ultimate constitutional crisis. Does the USA continue to exist or not? Will the rest of the world want to pay the US military to continue to exist? Is that even ethical on the part of the US military, or on the part of the rest of the world?
It is refreshing that this story line doesn't take the easy and obvious paths. Often, the greatest evil is perpetrated by well meaning people who just aren't up to the job or whose personal or group survival needs are at odds with the rest of the world. And sometimes small acts of kindness will flower into great good.
This is NOT some new age utopian book. It is dark and at times it is incredibly violent. It was interesting to see people wrestle with the variety of moral dilemma's this situation presents them.
This book is NOT about what would the world be like without the USA, but one about what would happen if the US just suddenly stopped, "Without Warning" doing the stuff the USA has been doing.
I think it's a well thought out book with perspectives I hadn't thought of.
The author appears to be Australian, and a few phrases coming out of the mouths of American characters don't always sound all that authentic. (Calling a shotgun a 'shotty', for instance, Americans would just say shotgun or refer to it by its gage - 12 gage, a 410, etc.), but on the whole the author has either lived in the US or done some very good research. The American characters are pretty believable and are not Hollywood stereotypes. (No one hates Americans the way Hollywood does!)
If you like speculative fiction, this is worth investigating. . .
Last edited by GlenBarrington; 08-31-2010 at 04:10 PM.
Reason: ARGHHH I need an editor!