Without Warning

Author: John Birmingham


ISBN: 9780345502896
Pages: 516
Description: Very disappointing book. What’s worse is that it’s not the first time I’ve been disappointed by a John Birmingham novel – I read the first book of his previous trilogy, Weapons of Choice, and found that almost unreadable. Even after persisting through to the end of that first book (as I did with this first book of the new trilogy too), I found the characters unlikable in the extreme, the American jingoism too much to take, and the overt racism, bigotry and sexist attitudes of the characters too unpleasant to either be entertaining or verisimilitudinous. Yes, I know that those attitudes aren’t necessarily that of the author’s, but when an author seems to choose mainly characters of that ilk, it gets tedious and unbearable. The problems with Without Warning don’t end there: The idea is interesting to begin with, but Birmingham goes nowhere with it. The writing is plodding, pedestrian, and is like a painful attempt to write a military-cum-spy thriller which never succeeds. It’s as if he picks all the wrong set pieces, executes them flatly, and throws in a lot of action and sturm and drang, signifying nothing, not even good entertainment. It actually gets boring after a while. As it that wasn’t enough, the editing and copy-editing are both appalling, with literally dozens of errors popping out unbidden, perhaps many more that I didn’t notice or tried to get past. I’m a huge fan of alt history, military SF and EOW/survivalist fiction, and regard Turtledove and Stirling as the benchmarks of those genres. This one definitely doesn’t pass the Turtledove/Stirling standard. It’s not worth picking up in paperback let alone hardcover. I want my money back and I will not be picking up a book by John Birmingham ever again. Sorry, John, you seem like a okay enough guy, but you just don’t cut it as a writer of this kind of fiction. Better luck with another genre.
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