The latest from Cohen (Dragon Fire, 2006, etc.), a former Republican senator and congressman who also served as President Clinton’s secretary of defense.
Both the plot and the author’s insider’s perspective should attract readers of international thrillers, but the awkward pacing, cardboard characters and clichéd writing slow the novel’s momentum. When Cohen warns of an America in which “the center was no longer holding because centrists were treated as traitors to their political party,” it’s plain that he feels that statesmanship and compromise have fallen victim to political polarization. Among the familiar elements in Cohen’s latest are aftershocks of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, as an American port city becomes obliterated by what is first described as a tsunami that results in a massive power outage, but soon seems to bear the imprint of a terrorist attack. President Blake Oxley not only has familiar initials, but also has a gift of oratory that seems increasingly powerless in the face of brass-knuckle politics and uncompromising demagoguery. His national security advisor, Sean Falcone, has a legislative background remarkably similar to the author’s, while the president’s chief of staff has the bluster of a Karl Rove. When a Washington Post journalist known for his insider access and his string of bestselling books (sound familiar?) writes about a clandestine cadre of Christian conservatives, a mini-military-industrial complex that can’t wait for Armageddon to arrive, there’s a suggestion that the enemy within is more dangerous than any foreign threat, particularly after the journalist shares what he knows (but hasn’t published) with Falcone. Spoiler alert: The planet avoids annihilation and America (somehow) prevails.
A novel that attempts to mine the post-9/11 era of unease as Seven Days in May and Fail Safe did the Cold War’s.