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A fast-paced, fun piece of contemporary military fiction with heavy science-fiction (post-apocalyptic overtones).
SPOILERS ABOUND: READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL.
The book begins in 2003 with America poised to invade Iraq.  For an entirely unrevealed reason, an energy field now covers nearly the entire continent of North America, killing every inhabitant and rendering the area impossible to enter.  For all intents and purposes, the United States is now gone.  All that remains of America is Alaska, Hawaii, part of Washington state, and the large numbers of military personnel and equipment in the Middle East.  Needless to say, much of the world descends in chaos as a result.
The book follows the experiences of several characters as they deal with this situation, including a female counter-terrorist operative operating in France (possibly the weakest sub-plot, but also the only one involving significant combat scenes); some smugglers operating off the western coast of Mexico; an embedded journalist in Iraq (a typical all-American guy, though poorly developed); a city engineer in Washington state; a general at Gitmo; and a political operative and smooth-talker on vacation in Hawaii.  Characterization is limited — I’d say that’s the biggest weakness of the book — as is combat, for the most part.  There’s plenty of action and the plot proceeds a rapid clip, however, so it’s certainly not boring.  Technobabble is kept to a bare minimum, so if you have an allergy to Tom Clancy, you’ll be fine here.
The book ends on a revelation, one year after the event that started the book, that will once again fundamentally change the setting.  It’s an interesting twist and I look forward to seeing how the sequel proceeds from this point.  Do not, however, look for an answer to what caused this catastrophe — you won’t get one in this first book in the series.  At this point, it’s purely a “what if” thought piece; you should be aware of that before you begin reading, since I suspect that may irk some readers.
I recommend the book as a fun read.  Even though I received an ARC of this book for free, I enjoyed it enough that I will likely pick up the sequel.
3.5 stars out of 5
Review copyright 2009 J. Andrew Byers

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