Monday, February 15, 2010

"Without Warning" by John Birmingham - Mini Review

Described as a work of "alternate fiction", John Birmingham's "Without Warning" falls just inside the realm of science fiction, barely meeting that category description because of a deadly and unknown phenomenon that has scientists baffled.

A techno/political/military thriller in the best tradition of authors like Michael Crichton and John Clancy, it's a grand "what if" mash up that asks, "What would happen if the United States and much of North America was essentially wiped clean by some sort of mysterious energy wave?"

Naturally, the obvious haters are elated by this new development, but soon even they begin to rethink the benefits of living in a world without Pax Americana.

The story itself is a series of vignettes following the reactions of a group of drug smugglers, our surviving overseas military, a lethal assassin, and a lowly Seattle city engineer to the reality that America, with all her warts and beauty, no longer exists. Birmingham masterfully weaves the seemingly unconnected story lines together in a way that makes the book hard to put down. The first installment of a proposed trilogy, "Without Warning" is highly recommended.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"The Hostile Takeover Trilogy" by S. Andrew Swann - Mini Review

This whopper of a trilogy ("Profiteer", "Partisan", "Revolutionary") follows two brothers as they battle over Bakunin - an outlaw planet of congenital individualists located in the heart of the vast Confederacy. As the title hints, Bakunin is crawling with various corporations, each of which is a power unto itself, right down to having their own security forces which more closely resemble national armies.

Dominic Magnus, a Bakunin CEO, and his brother Klaus, an agent of the Confederacy's covert operations branch, have had a lethal beef with each other going back to the death of their mother years ago. At first Dominic thinks Klaus' showing up with an invading force and taking over his corporation is just a continuation of their whole Cain and Abel dance, but we soon learn that the brothers are merely proxies for forces far greater then themselves. There is intrigue galore in these stories which, to me, give a hint of the Machiavellian politics that flavored the Italian renaissance.

I'll admit that it takes a while to get into the dense narrative of these books, but I recommend sticking with them as once you tag who's who and what's what, you're in for an enjoyable ride. Recommended.