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Without Warning

(The Disappearance #1)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,778 ratings  ·  262 reviews
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from John Birmingham's After America.

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
Kindle Edition, 546 pages
Published (first published February 3rd 2009)
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Showing 1-30
3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,778 ratings  ·  262 reviews

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Ashok Banker
Sep 26, 2011 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,
Mark Hebwood
May 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Roger Eschbacher
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2009 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 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Birmingham’s latest novel wastes no time launching its premise: on March 14, 2003, as the world awaits the impending start of the Iraq War, a massive energy bubble appears in North America, instantly wiping out every lifeform within it. In the weeks that follow, the world faces the consequences of the loss of the world’s sole superpower. The military attempt to preserve order in the unaffected remnants of the United States, Saddam launches an attack on the now-stranded American forces, and ...more
Clay Kallam
May 08, 2009 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
Brendan Brooks
well bugger me. I'll have to read the next one at some point. Interesting setting, nice and light, well thought out implications.
Todd Heidrick
Mar 21, 2009 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 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.
Adam Whitehead
14 March 2003. The world watches on as the United States and her allies prepare for the controversial invasion of Iraq. What happens next is totally unexpected: a field of energy materialises over the North American continent, stretching from north-east of Newfoundland to just north of Acapulco, and from just south-east of Seattle to a few miles north of Guantanamo Bay. Virtually the entirety of the continental United States, most of populated Canada and almost all of Mexico and Cuba are affecte ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinarily exciting novel. Three hundred to four hundred million people die nearly instantaneously across the United States, and parts of Canada and Mexico. No one knows why; they’re reduced to a small pile of goo, and anyone who tries to enter the area is similarly vaporized. The United States as a global power is gone…

…except that it happened on the eve of the second Gulf war, and of course it didn’t hit Hawaii either. A whole lot of the United States military survived because
Jun 21, 2017 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 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
Strong concept, mostly good characterisation but it seemed to drag on a little.

The storytelling style reminded me of Red Storm Rising with the story pivoting between a number of unrelated threads and the pace picking up as the story progressed. In fact it was a bit of a cross between Red Storm Rising, The Stand and The Dome.

I didn't so much read this as listen to the audiobook and the ironic part of listening to him was that, even though the book was written by an Aussie, the narrator did an aby
Mar 04, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Ok, I won't finish this. I got to 15% and was knocked, in the brain, right out of the book. I typically don't review DNFs, I generally just delete from my shelves and move on. This was a special circumstance though as the knock out was egregious! Can anyone please explain how a city's civil engineer warrants a personal pickup with a Blackhawk and transfer to a C-130 for a solo flight during a national emergency involving over 400 million people? That is coming from a person that can swallow warp ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author does a really good job of describing a possible scenario after an energy wave wipes the USA off of the map, without bogginf you down into the particulars or science of it; this is more of an emotional / human story of the world going into anarchy and civil war. He does a good job telling the story from 4 different perspectives and the effects on each.

I'm looking forward to the sequel, but will wait until the publisher-dictated price comes down to a more reasonable level.

Bottom line is
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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

Other books in the series

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