Angels of Vengeance Hardcover – Apr 10 2012
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Praise for John Birmingham
“[Birmingham] describes military hardware with an exuberance and virtuosity that’s positively Clancyesque.”—Time
“Interesting geopolitics, incredible action, and pirate battles make this a perfect end-of-summer read.”—io9
“Ingenious and engrossing.”—Publishers Weekly
“A real page-turner . . . [rips] the reader along on the ride.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Shocking . . . replete with full-throttle action.”—Booklist
About the Author
John Birmingham is the author of After America, Without Warning, Final Impact, Designated Targets, Weapons of Choice, and other novels, as well as Leviathan, which won the National Award for Nonfiction at Australia’s Adelaide Festival of the Arts. He has written for The Sydney Morning Herald, Rolling Stone, Penthouse, Playboy, and numerous other magazines. He lives at the beach with his wife, daughter, son, and two cats.See all Product Description
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That is definitely true here. I thought the first book of the trilogy WITHOUT WARNING rated five stars, and the second book AFTER AMERICA was even better, being flawless in plot, action, and characterization...and especially enlightening as to the chaotic world that would be left if 96% of the U.S. population suddenly disappeared.
Because the first two books are so excellent, there is a bit of a letdown here. The first few chapters move very fast and then the pace slows down. There's just not that much to add to the story line that hasn't been told in the first two books.
Despite being on the slow side toward the end, the book does have its high points. Here is what I liked:
* The exploits of the Echelon operative Caitlin Monroe are well told. Caitlin's character is fleshed out and gives us the feeling that we're reading about a real person instead of a plot device.
* The infiltration and combat sequences seem realistic without being cartoonish in a James Bond sort of way.
* The characters are complete. Birmingham knows how to portray characters as real human beings. The "good guys" have their weaknesses and most of the "bad guys" have some virtues. No human being is all-white or all-black. The book shows how people make difficult compromises to cope with dreadfully difficult circumstances. For example, it suggests that some of the defeated jihadist prisoners who were captured after infesting America's depopulated East Coast might be granted American citizenship in return for agreeing to join our armies and fighting for us against other enemies for ten years.
* The story line is realistic. The book explains in a very rational sort of way how the United States would go about rebuilding itself if 96% of our people suddenly vanished in an incomprehensible natural catastrophic event (In this trilogy the extinction event happens to be an energy "wave" of unknown cosmic origin). The 4% who are left as survivors would have an immense but not insurmountable job on their hands. The country WOULD be set on the path of recovery, WOULD remain true to our founding principles, and WOULD be repopulated by new immigrations of foreign-born citizens, just as it was populated the first time around.
* The book concludes the trilogy satisfactorily with all the issues of plot development resolved, except in regard to the origin of the inscrutable "wave" that began the trilogy by instantaneously depopulating most of North America.
However, I think the book would have been improved by a couple of additional discussions:
* The surviving outlying territories of the USA such as Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico might have been discussed more. If the events had actually transpired, P.R. would have been the greatest concentration of surviving U.S. citizens. One would expect a lot To be going on in these areas that were spared the obliteration of CONUS. But they are barely mentioned.
* Nothing at all is discovered about the ever-inscrutable "wave" that depopulated most of the USA, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. The "wave" was selective in causing 100% destruction of human beings under its footprint, but otherwise leaving the other animal and plant ecology undisturbed. Surely SOMETHING would have been learned about the nature of the "wave." Was it a natural or biological force? Where did it go? Will it ever return? I understand the author's reasons for wanting to keep the "wave" mysterious rather than becoming a character in its own right, but still you'd think the characters would be talking about it more. You'd think they'd worry to some degree about the wave maybe returning after they moved into the area that had been inside its footprint.
These criticisms aside, I enjoyed the book, even after skimming past some "slow" chapters. If you liked WITHOUT WARNING and AFTER AMERICA you'll want to read this one in order to capture the totality of John Birmingham's vision of the USA destroyed and reconstructed.
As a reader I was pulled right in to the story. The book has action and adventure - we start right off with an operative being dropped from a Black Hawk chopper into the jungle in enemy territory, but the story also contains a full measure of drama and politics and some intrigue. This isn't all wham/bam military SF - it is a well rounded story. I do think I would have appreciated more action than we get however. The political part of the novel really did not interest me much, and I think it should have. I wasn't able to identify/sympathize with the characters surrounding and including the President and for the most part the intrigue was lost on me.
Birmingham is a descriptive writer and we get a good sense of our surroundings. The operative, Caitlan Monroe, is a strong character in the book and I was caught up in her story quickly. Overall, I think I appreciated the story arc of another main character, Sofia Pieraro, more. Character description are one of the best parts of the writing. We really get a feel for who Caitlan and Sofia are, as well as other characters in the novel, major and minor. Birmingham writes with well paced shifting points of view among several primary and some minor characters in short chapters and we get a sense of this different new world in the process. The United States has essentially been eliminated from the picture by a mysterious event that depopulated the country. At the time of the novel there has already been resettlement in some parts of the country by immigrants from around the world. It bothered me at the end that this central mystery of what wiped out the United States was never explained. What we do see is a remnant United States with still a strong will to endure and carry forward and rebuild itself. In that sense this is different take on many (most?) post-collapse dystopian novels. Would the world be a better place without the United States as a superpower? That is something we examine a bit in reading the novel, but really a lot of the book is about individual characters and dealing with the new reality. Birmingham goes to some lengths to suggest that what occurs is an echo of the original growing pains of the Unted States and that similar situations will arise in the rebirth of the United States, and the past should be our guide to the future.
I had no trouble following the shifting focal points of the story. There is a large cast of characters spread among the various story arcs. There is a nice character list and locales at the start of the book that I liked having for reference, if one needs a quick check to remember who someone is, but I didn't have any problems. This was an enjoyable read, but not much above what I consider a good average story. I don't mean to dismiss this in any way. It was a good story, well handled and I do plan to fit in a reading of the earlier books in this series at a later date. I think the story would be a stronger one for me if I had read the earlier novels in this series.
I received a copy of this book for review through the LibraryThing early reviewers program.
This guy s a really talented writer - too bad he has stopped working at it.
The last six I bought as soon as they came out - next I wait for the second hand copy.