Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Without Warning By John Birmingham eBook edition

parent-9780345502896 Removing the USA from the world political scene is a daunting task. Birmingham does a credible job of showing what a dangerous place the world would become without our power base.

This book examines a recent past in which the mainland USA was taken out of the world power equation. The plot devices and characters are well enough developed that by the end of this book you are ready for the sequel. Unfortunately, that next book is at least one year away from being published.

I like some of the story lines better than others. By and large though if you are a Science Fiction fan or a fan of the disaster novel this is a good read following an interesting premise.

Without the USA in play the world degrades quickly into disorder, as you might expect. Some outcomes seem likely and strategically correct. Others stretch credulity a bit but are plausible enough to carry your attention.

All in all Birmingham does a good job of drawing lines between the disappearance of the majority of US military power and the increase of chaos worldwide. This is a great spring break distraction or a really nice find if you haven’t read any of Birmingham’s other books. They are all worth reading if military fiction is one of the types of novels you enjoy. His knowledge base is solid and his writing skills are first class, so enjoy.

In Kuwait, American forces are stacked up, locked and loaded for the invasion of Iraq. In Paris, a covert agent, a woman who inhabits a twilight of lies and death, is close to cracking a terrorist cell. And just north of the equator, a forty-foot wood-hulled sailboat, manned by a drug runner, a pirate, and two gun-slinging beauties, is witness to the unspeakable. In one instant, all around the world, for politicians and peasants, from Gaza to Geneva, things will never be the same. A wave of inexplicable energy has slammed into the continental United States.

America, as we know it, is gone. . . . WITHOUT WARNING

Now U.S. soldiers are fighting a war without command or control. A correspondent records horrors for no one. Washington is gone and the line of succession is in tatters; the functioning remnants of government are in Pearl Harbor, Guantanamo Bay, and one desperate, isolated corner of the Northwest. For the jihads, it’s Allah’s miracle. For Saddam, it’s a chance to attack. Iran declares war on an America that doesn’t exist–except in the hearts and souls of the men and women who want it to.

In this astounding work of alternate fiction, John Birmingham hurtles us into a scenario that is unimaginable but shatteringly real: a world of financial ruin where a cloud of noxious waste–from America’s burning cities–darkens Europe, while men and women in offices around the globe struggle to make decisions that cannot hold and opportunists unleash their secret demons.

From a slick Texas lawyer who happens to be in the right place at the right time to a hard-working city engineer in Seattle who becomes his terrified city’s only hope, from the cancer-stricken secret agent to a drug runner off the Mexican coast and a U.S. general in Cuba, Without Warning tells a fast, furious story of survival, violence, and a new, soul-shattering reality. The first in an epic trilogy that will leave readers breathless and astounded, Without Warning offers a world without its policeman, its Great Satan, or its savior–as an unknowable future struggles to be born.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Smoke and Shadows eBook by Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff whose Science Fiction and Fantasy novels have occasionally delighted me in the past has developed a relatively new series.

The Smoke Trilogy begins with, Smoke and Shadows and I hope continues for a long time. So what is an old guy like me doing reading books aimed at a largely far younger audience?

Well, I have this eleven year old granddaughter who is writing a vampire story. I just thought reading a bit of the genre wouldn’t hurt too much.

In fact when I picked up the book I was quickly delighted by the fact that Huff has captured the weirdness and clarity necessary to write interesting fantasy novels. She is capable of populating them with characters that ring true under the wildest circumstances imaginable. I have no limits on what I will read if the author will just make the characters believable. The angst and fury of saving the world with the help of a prince of a vampire falls on a young man, Tony Foster. Ms. Huff populates the world around him with vivid and lively characters.

Tony is working in Television on the set of a vampire series while developing his career interest in TV production. He meets a wizard, works out the nature of the problem threatening our world, engages the help of his vampire friend/lover, a real prince of a fellow and, well, read the book!

Remember this was a research project for me. But in doing it I gave my granddaughter a gift of a new author, something we can never have enough of in life. I also understand her fascination with the whole Goth thing and the vampire genre as well a great deal better now.

I’ve liked Huff as an author since she broke into the SF/Fantasy scene sometime in the 1980’s. I have up to now ignored her vampire books. Now I find myself buying them all not just to give to my granddaughter but to read for my own enjoyment.

If you want to understand a culture read its literature in the native language. The subculture that fascinates this particular grand-daughter right now is Goth. The literature is populated with wizards, and warlocks and vampires and other interesting human and nonhuman types. Certainly that would have interested me at her age. It still does! I find that is true much to my amusement and gratification.

Give it a try, what’s a little bloodletting among friends?

In 1991, a new series soared into the fantasy firmament with the publication of Blood Price, the first novel in Tanya Huff's acclaimed five-volume masterwork, which followed the exploits of Vicki Nelson, private investigator, and vampire Henry Fitzroy.

Together, Vicki and Henry faced and survived perils ranging from demons, werewolves, and mummies to zombies and restless spirits crying out for revenge. In their trials they were aided-willingly or not-by an assortment of allies. Among these allies was a street kid named Tony Foster. Claimed by Vicki as a reliable snitch and by Henry as "one of his own," Tony found himself rescued from his dead-end existence and given a chance for a better life.

Relocating to Vancouver with Henry, and forced to get his act together, Tony embarked on a career in Vancouver's burgeoning TV industry, landing a job as a production assistant at CB Productions. In an example of art echoing life, the syndicated TV series Tony worked for was "Darkest Night," a show about the adventures of a vampire detective.
Except for his unrequited crush on the show's handsome costar, Lee Nicholas, Tony was pretty content, at least until the day everything started to fall apart on the set. It began with shadows-shadows that seemed to be where shadows didn't belong, shadows that almost seem to have an existence of their own....
Tony tried to ignore it, to tell himself it was all in his imagination-until he found Nikki Waugh's body... and felt the shadow's touch....
And when shadow appeared to cast its claim on Lee, and a crash stunt went wrong for no discernible reason, Tony could no longer ignore what was happening. He had to find out what was threatening everyone on the "Darkest Night" set. And, of course, he needed Henry's help.

It wasn't long before the trail left to CB Productions own special effects wizard, Arra Pelindrake-and a frightening explanation which only a young man with Tony's unique background could accept. But knowing what he faced was only half the battle-finding a way to survive the unsurvivable, and defeat the undefeatable-that was the real challenge!

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