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Without Warning Hardcover – February 3, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 170 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Disappearance Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Birmingham’s acclaimed Axis of Time trilogy, an alternate history of World War II, now seems a mere warm-up for this blockbuster set on the eve of the second Gulf War. On March 14, 2003, as coalition forces ready their assault on Iraq, a massive energy wave envelops the continental U.S. and portions of Canada and Mexico. Quickly dubbed the Disappearance by baffled onlookers, the wave mysteriously obliterates all life forms, human and animal, within its shimmering borders. As politicians and scientists try to make sense of the anomaly, some foreign observers, including Iraqis, start celebrating, while others descend into chaos. Birmingham follows the volatile developments through the eyes of an American general in Guantánamo Bay, near the wave’s perimeter; a city engineer in Seattle, the only major U.S. city left unscathed; and an American secret operative fending off assassins on the streets of Paris. While Birmingham’s shocking premise may unnerve some American readers, a story line replete with full-throttle action should appeal to Anglophones everywhere. --Carl Hays


Advance praise for Without Warning

“John Birmingham’s ability to seamlessly merge the gritty realism of Tom Clancy with the raw speculation of Michael Crichton is like no other author I’ve ever read. Brilliant, nail-biting, thoughtful, and excruciatingly pertinent to our times, his latest novel, Without Warning, is simply a tour de force, a true classic in the making. It should be required reading for the entire world.”
–James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Oracle

“What would happen if America vanished? Some would like to find out, but John Birmingham’s Without Warning suggests that the Pax Americana would soon be sorely missed. It’s a gripping story, for Americans and non-Americans alike.”
–Glenn Reynolds, InstaPundit

“Delivers all the action and techno-detail that any Clancy fan could wish for.”
–Robert Buettner, author of Orphanage

“A modern, even postmodern alternate history where the people who wish the United States would go away get what they wished for, and the consequences are meticulously, horrifically worked out in compelling detail through the eyes of a medley of interesting, well-developed characters and tightly plotted action.”
–S. M. Stirling, author of Island in the Sea of Time

Praise for John Birmingham’s Weapons of Choice

“Weapons-grade military techno-thriller . . . [Birmingham] describes military hardware with an exuberance and virtuosity that’s positively Clancyesque.”

“Birmingham’s enthralling battleground mixes provocative historical fiction and socially conscious futurism.”
–Entertainment Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; First Edition edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780345502896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345502896
  • ASIN: 0345502892
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,428,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In "Without Warning" John Birmingham once again presents us with a very real, very human, and very believable "alternate" world. This time, instead of 21st century battle fleets being thrown back through time to win World War Two, the premise of this tale is what would happen if the United States suddenly - and Without Warning - simply went away?

In the blink of an eye, some unexplainable event causes every human being in the US (and in most of both Canada and Mexico) to simply cease to exist. The surviving Americans are stunned. The rest of world is either stunned or celebrating - at least for the moment. Then the real meat of the tale is served up - what would happen in the rest of the world if the biggest military power and the biggest economic power was gone?

Chaos, collapse, disorder, violence and suffering - among other things - is the answer. The detailing of which is where this book excels. And it's not just the detailing of the technical aspects - though there is that aplenty.

Some have said that John Birmingham delivers up a "Clancy-esque" thriller. I disagree. It would have been to easy for Birmingham to have simply spewed reams of precise militaristic sounding facts and figures into page after page (after page) and call that fiction writing, as does Clancy. What John Birmingham has done instead is to strike a far better balance by keeping the tech-level present but not overwhelming while he sticks to telling his tale about the people involved. Not the machines, not the functioning of the machines but of what happens to the people in this scenario. That's what makes this tale engaging and keeps it compelling.

There are no one dimensional characters in this tale and there's damn few two dimensional ones either.
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Format: Hardcover
John Birmingham has himself an interesting little premise. Rumor has it, one day while in Australia he overheard someone remark that the world would be a better place if the U.S. fell off the face of it. And that's basically where Without Warning starts. It's March 2003 and the U.S. is on the cusp of invading Iraq, when suddenly a strange energy field appears over most of the Continental U.S., vaporizing anything living within it. The only Americans to survive are those in the northwest corner around Seattle, plus those in Hawaii, Alaska, and anyone overseas--many of whom are military stationed in the Mid East for the impending war. So, America has fallen off the face of the earth--and now the world must really deal with what that means, economically, politically and socially.

As I said, Birmingham has a very interesting premise. The strongest parts of his book were when he was really dealing with the repercussions of "The Disappearance"--how some Mid East countries close in on Israel and spark a small nuclear war, the political and religious riots in France and England, Venezuela making its move as a new power in South America. I wanted more about food riots, martial law, anarchy, who would fight who and side with who. I wanted to know what happened to Africa, China, Russia, Japan, India--countries we see very little of. Other than France and England, we really don't hear anything about the rest of Europe at all. Most of the speculation, which is what I sought in this book, took a backburner to the thriller-esque multi-character story lines. We followed a city engineer in Seattle (the best character by far), a marooned U.S. super-spy in France, a pair of sexy drug smuggler babes , an embedded Army Times reporter, a general in Cuba, a general in Hawaii, a shady lawyer, etc.
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Format: Hardcover
The scope of Without Warning is epic in scale and John Birmingham weaves many complex threads into a satisfying whole in this ambitious effort. Sure, there is the requisite "explodey goodness" that was at the center of his Axis of Time trilogy but this outing is clearly more character driven and, because Without Warning is set in our world, it makes for a far more accessible and satisfying read.

The scope of the disaster is so overwhelming that the sheer scope of the plot could have easily gotten away from Birmingham. His decision to tell the story from the viewpoint of geographically divergent characters that have independent (and sometimes conflicting) story lines allows him to explore various facets of the impact of the loss of America in a coherent way. You see the story play out through the eyes of a city engineer in Seattle, pirates off the coast of South America, an embed reporter in the Middle East covering Desert Storm and a deep cover spy tracking a terrorist in Paris. Additionally, I found that the inclusion of real world figures as central characters, in particular General Tommy Franks, provided a nice counterpoint to the fictional characters. The depiction of, and actions taken by, the character Franks (and the US military), post-wave, rang true to me. There are other real life characters depicted but I wouldn't want to spoil any surprises.

When I first read this novel the most immediate comparison that came to mind was the Stephen King classic The Stand. I know that this comparison will draw the ire of many but the sheer scale of the plot coupled with the vivid, well executed characters begs for the comparison.

This is John Birmingham's breakout novel and I predict that Without Warning will appeal to more mainstream thriller readers (as well as his core military SF fans that loved Axis of Time) and will be a bestseller.
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