“After America”, the latest alternate history novel by John Birmingham, is a sequel to “Without Warning” and takes place several years after the events of the first novel in which most of the population of the United States, Canada, and Mexico vanish.
About three years after a phenomenon called “The Wave” lifted from North America, the United States, under President Kipper, who was the city engineer of Seattle in the previous book, is trying to rebuild. Some infrastructure in Kansas City has been brought into operation. Immigrants are being accepted, after passing stringent tests, to resettle the United States.
Of course with the population of America suddenly fifteen million, mostly comprised of people who were in Seattle, Hawaii, and Alaska, plus Americans who were overseas at the time of the “Disappearance”, and recent immigrants, the crippled, recovering country has a number of problems on its hands.
Criminal gangs have descended upon the east coast to strip the derelict cities of every valuable thing they can lay
their hands on. Jihadi refugees from the nuclear wasteland that used to be the Middle East outside Israel are also invading to establish a Caliphate in the New World. What is left of the United States military is desperately trying to eject these invaders, with a battle raging in the steel and stone canyons of what was once New York.
On that last, Humphrey Bogart once said in “Casablanca” that there were certain areas of New York that were one ought not to invade. But ejecting invaders is a military night mare without precedence, making Stalingrad seem like a walk over.
Texas is all but independent, ruled by a crazy, racist General with his own ideas of keeping America ethnically “pure.” Criminal gangs are ethnically cleansing Texas of non Caucasians.
The rest of the world is not so much better. Great Britain is ruled by a Cromwellian style regime. France is in chaos. Germany is slowly being taken over by Muslim refugees. India and Pakistan have fought a nuclear war. China is in the midst of a civil war. South America is ruled by a military junta.
As with “Without Warning” the story of “After America” is told by multiple viewpoint characters, many of whom were introduced in the previous novel.
In “After America”, a retired assassin hunts for a terrorist mastermind who tried to kill her family in England, a Polish born soldier slogs through the hell that is New York after “the Wave”, a smuggler and her companion search for treasure in the midst of the very same battle, and a Hispanic settler travels with his surviving daughter after his family is wiped out by men working for the dictator of Texas seeking safety and revenge.
And, the American President struggles with what he might have to do to keep the ruins of his country safe. Not to mention the fact that he has to deal with the criticism of a certain female governor of Alaska—
“After America” is part Tom Clancy-style techno thriller, part spy novel, part western with inspiration from “The Searchers”, the films of Clint Eastwood, and others. It does suffer a little from being the middle book in what is obviously a trilogy. But “After America” is a great read, showing Birmingham’s growth as a writer. Well recommended.
Source: After America, John Birmingham, Del Rey, 2010
Review of Without Warning by John Birmingham, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, February 16th, 2009