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Without Warning (The Disappearance #1)

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  2,509 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
In Kuwait, American forces are locked and loaded for the invasion of Iraq. In Paris, a covert agent is close to cracking a terrorist cell. And just north of the equator, a sailboat manned by a drug runner and a pirate is witness to the unspeakable. In one instant, all around the world, everything will change. A wave of inexplicable energy slams into the continental United ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published July 6th 2010 by Del Rey (first published November 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30)
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Ashok Banker
Sep 26, 2011 Ashok Banker rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Take one part clumsier Tom Clancy, add one part S.M. Stirling, shake it up with an anti-Muslim bias, and you get this 2009 novel by an Aussie. Set just days prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it's an apocalyptic read, full of military exploits.

A strange inexplicable energy wave abruptly covers most of North America and all mammalian life disappears or is melted into a pile of goo. At least I think it's all mammalian life; only humans are of concern in this book. Only the Seattle area, Alaska,
Roger Eschbacher
Jul 29, 2011 Roger Eschbacher rated it really liked it
Described as a work of "alternate fiction", John Birmingham's "Without Warning" falls just inside the realm of science fiction, barely meeting that category description because of a deadly and unknown phenomenon that has scientists baffled.

A techno/political/military thriller in the best tradition of authors like Michael Crichton and John Clancy, it's a grand "what if" mashup that asks, "What would happen if the United States and much of North America was essentially wiped clean by some sort of
Jan 28, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
How many times have you read a story or seen a film where all seems to be lost until the USA steps in to help? I’m thinking Tom Clancy’s novels, Armageddon, Independence Day, films about World War 2 perhaps even Team America: World Police and so on.

Much of this is because the books and films are written to please their target audience, of course. However, in this alternate history, the saving of the world is not an option for the Americans. You see, without warning (and hence the title) an energ
Mark Hebwood
May 29, 2016 Mark Hebwood rated it did not like it
What I disliked most about this book was the swearing. I give you an example: are you taking the fucking piss? Now, the first thing that springs to mind is whether it was really necessary to use two swearwords in a statement that short. At least the adjective is redundant, it seems to me. Of course, it is possible that John merely used this overly crass diction to build one of his characters, in which case this might have been ok. But no, almost every person in John's universe speaks like this, ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Sheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is about what would happen if the U.S. suddenly was not here. I thought it was pretty interesting how they showed people and whole countries panicking and getting desperate. There is another book following this one and I'm anxious to read it when it comes out.
Jul 31, 2009 Tripp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like completely gonzo over the top alternate history, then you probably have already read or heard about John Birmingham. In his Axis of Time trilogy a US-led naval task force from 2021 finds itself catapulted back to 1942 where it quickly disrupts the timeline by accidentally sinking a good piece of the US Navy. World war 2 changes quite a but as you might guess.

His latest is even crazier. Without Warning starts a few weeks before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. For reasons unrevealed in t
Jun 14, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing
I found this book immensely, well, amazing. Opening the pages transports the reader to a hellish alternate reality in which over 90% of the US is wiped out by a mysterious energy field on the eve of the US invasion of the Middle East that roughly a decade ago from present. Readers are transported to a world in which pirates now rule the seas with the US Navy now in pieces and distracted in it's efforts to pick up those pieces, in which countries like France and China are ravaged by rebellions wh ...more
When 300 million people die on page 1, you know you're in for something different. In "Without Warning", John Birmingham begins with the somewhat contrived scenario of almost everyone in the continental USA suddenly turning into a puddle of green ooze, but then takes a brave stab at exploring what might happen next. The result is an entertaining alternate history, containing a strange mix of real people (Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Tommy Franks) and fictitious characters. The writing is a little clu ...more
Suzanne Kittrell
Great Read!! And is the start of this author's trilogy the last two yet to be written. It poses the question of what would happen to rest of the world if the US mostly disappeared except for its troops overseas and the NW corner of Washington state. Could not put this book down.
On the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 14 March 2003 and in a time of uncertainty and financial crisis, a wave of energy has fallen over America. The United States as we know it is gone. The soldiers are left to fight a war without command, the line of succession go so far back that it falls to the governments in Pearl Harbor, Guantánamo Bay, and a very isolated corner of the north east. What will the world be like now the last superpower has disappeared?

Without Warning is the first book in the
Clay Kallam
May 08, 2009 Clay Kallam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
John Birmingham’s latest, “Without Warning” (Del Rey, $26, 510 pages), was written before America let loose a lung-deep economic cough, and the world caught a recessionary cold – after all, its basic premise is how much everyone would really miss us if we were gone.

The setup is this: All of a sudden, most of North America is covered by an unknown shield, from the ground up to tens of thousands of feet into the air. All animals under that shield, including human beings, die an instant death. In a
Guy Haley
On the eve of the Second Gulf War, North America is engulfed by a mysterious energy wave that kills/ disappears everyone underneath it. 400 million are dead, and the world is suddenly without the USA…

What ensues is a mix of Battlestar Galactica, Jericho, and Bourne as Earth is first ravaged by the environmental fallout of the burning of US cities, and then nuclear war. Birmingham follows a number of Anglophones as the disaster unfolds, and that gives you a clue to the spirit of the book; it’s un
Tony Calder
Feb 04, 2012 Tony Calder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
To those who only know John Birmingham through his first book, "He Died With a Felafel in His Hand", this book would come as quite a surprise. Those who know him through his World War trilogy will be on much more familiar ground.

Birmingham was become quite proficient in writing modern military techno thrillers to which he adds a science fiction element. In the World War series it was sending a modern carrier battle group back in time to World War Two, in this series it's an energy wave that take
Jan 05, 2009 Sfmurphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 14, 2010 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: end-times
A strange occurence takes out most of the continental U.S. and large portions of Mexico and Canada. All of a sudden you have displaced Americans stranded throughout the world as these areas are no longer hospitable. Of course a large contingent of the displaced would be our military as they are scattered throughout different portions of the world. And soon the world will experience what happens when a superpower such as the U.S dissapears. This is a great book that leaves off leaving the reader ...more
May 08, 2009 Laura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited to read this book. The idea sounded so intriguing--what would happen if most of America was wiped out due to some unexplained "event"? I stuck it out for the first few hundred pages, but ended up skimming to the end to find out what happened. I found neither the writing nor the characters interesting enough to stick with.
May 15, 2009 Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Honestly I read about 1/5 of the book, which is quite long, and skimmed the rest. It was uninteresting and I just couldn't get involved in any of the characters. The concept of the "wave" I did find interesting and I might skim future books (this one is the first of a trilogy) to see if he does anything with the technology.
Paul Bork
Aug 25, 2009 Paul Bork rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There really are books you do not want to put down. This was one of those. Read in one day. Good scenario as to how a few small town in North Carolina handle themselves after a real/possible appocolypse.
Todd Heidrick
Mar 21, 2009 Todd Heidrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Ever wonder what the world would be like without the United States? Do you like end of the world stories? This book is for you. I can't wait for the second book to come out!!!
Oct 20, 2008 Ian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting concept, but the story never really went anywhere, and it all ended with a fizzle.
Without warning was the book equivalent of a good popcorn movie. It was fun, fast paced, and a little light on believability. An energy field suddenly encompasses most of the continental United States and suddenly a nation of 290 million is reduced to just 5 million citizens, expats and military forces. What happens when the world's policeman is grievously wounded in his own home?

Mr Birmingham spins a wonderful yarn around a spy, a civil engineer, an admiral, a pirate and a reporter. The various
Jun 21, 2017 Christopher rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Chaos is boring.

It's 2003 on the eve of the Iraq War and a mysterious miasma kills nearly the entire population of the continental United States (some small pockets in the far pacific Northwest survive (Seattle) as well as Hawaii and Alaska.

But everyone else? Gone (and not laying around dead, but like Rapture disappeared). Europe, Asia, Africa, & South America seem largely unaffected but hey, 200+ million people just up and disappeared, so WHY are we still proceeding basically as if nothing
Dec 28, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Kuwait, American forces are locked and loaded for the invasion of Iraq. In Paris, a covert agent is close to cracking a terrorist cell. And just north of the equator, a sailboat manned by a drug runner and a pirate is witness to the unspeakable. In one instant, all around the world, everything will change. A wave of inexplicable energy slams into the continental United States. America as we know it vanishes. From a Texas lawyer who happens to be in the right place at the right time to an engi ...more
Nov 07, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Anther great What if? written by John Birmingham. Looking forward to reading the next one.
Zeke Chase
Rating: 6.9

John Birmingham is Australian? From the rampant, preachy jingoism throughout, I’d have assumed Birmingham to be the sort of guy who spent most of his life in... I don’t know – Omaha (and most of that being in his basement listening to Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck on ham radio.

Okay, it’s not that bad. It’s really not. But the American pro-military moralism is pretty strong. He does occasionally slip into diatribes about the US being the sole guarantors of liberty around the world (and
Without Warning is a high-concept end of the world thriller, one in which the USA inexplicably disappears behind the Wave, a sci-fi mcGuffin that is never explained. Most of the book explores what happens around the world in the vacuum left behind by the absence of the superpower, particularly to the few million Americans that were either out of the country or were in the few parts not covered by the Wave (basically Seattle, Hawaii and Alaska).

The story is set in 2003, just before the invasion o
Seán Gardner
Oct 16, 2010 Seán Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just went looking for After America , the sequel to Without Warning, in the Kobo e-book store because I want to know what happens next. There were a few times, tough to resist, where I was at work and feeling very tempted to hunch over my desk with the book to get through another scene of this gripping book.

I loved the Axis of Time trilogy, although Birmingham wasn't able to maintain the same level of inexorable momentum through all three books. As an aside, the chapter of Weapons of Choice de
Nov 18, 2009 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of "apocalyptic fiction", Tom Clancy, and Vince Flynn
Recommended to Jamie by:
Not your ordinary "apocalyptic" book.

Most "end of the world" or "return to the dark ages" books involve some sort of disease (The Stand) or nuclear war or financial collapse. This one is unexplained (yet - there will be sequels), yet elegantly simple. The "what if" in this case is: what if (by an as-yet-unknown method) the bulk of the United States of America went away? What happens to the world order without Team America: World Police (explicit lyrics warning)?

Very much in the style of a Tom Cl
Lianne Burwell
It's hard to know how to review this book, since it's the first book in a series.

Basically, in March 2003, during the buildup to the Iraq invasion, a mysterious force wipes out most of North America (a handy map shows the extent) Basically, all that is left is Canada west of Edmonton, Alaska, Hawaii and the northern part of Washington state. Northern Mexico is gone, as is pretty much all of Cuba except Gitmo.

The consequences are very realistic. And I'm not just talking about the fires caused by
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John Birmingham grew up in Ipswich, Queensland and was educated at St Edmunds Christian Brother's College in Ipswich and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. His only stint of full time employment was as a researcher at the Defence Department. After this he returned to Queensland to study law but he did not complete his legal studies, choosing instead to pursue a career as a writer. He curren ...more
More about John Birmingham...

Other Books in the Series

The Disappearance (3 books)
  • After America (The Disappearance, #2)
  • Angels of Vengeance (The Disappearance, #3)

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