Publisher: Pocket Books, Atria Books, Simon & Schuster
First published: 2007 (2004)
On a cold January morning, the United States awakes to discover than an old enemy, one long believed dead and buried, has crawled out of its grave to lay siege to the world’s only superpower.
With the stunning discovery that enhanced Soviet-made suitcase nukes have been secreted in America’s major cities, President Jack Rutledge gathers his National Security Council to weigh the feasability of a first-strike against the Russian Federation. There’s only one problem, for over two decades, the Russians have been funneling international aid money into a top secret air defence system, which has just been brought on-line and which renders any conventional attack upon their country utterly ineffective. After exhausting all his other options, and with Soviet sleeper agents preparing to detonate their deadly payloads across the United States, the President turns to the nation’s final hope, ex-Navy Seal and Secret Service Agent, Scot Harvath.
Assigned to a covert section of the Department of Homeland Security and charged with defending the nation against all foreign aggressors by any means necessary, Harvath finds himself hand-picked by the President to unravel a brilliantly orchestrated, fiendishly timed conspiracy that has already shattered the fragile peace between the world’s nations and which, if successful, will leave the United States in smouldering ruins.
Word of warning: Remember that when this was written, there was just one ‘world superpower’.
Well, leaving aside the fact that ‘America’s major cities’ is wrong. America isn’t just the United States, just as the United States isn’t America. Then, if Scot Harvath, on his own, is indeed their ‘final hope’ they really are in a pretty pickle. No matter how good he is. It is possible to sell the idea that one man can get into and disrupt things at the nerve-centre better than a whole squadron – see James Bond’s whole career – and that’s what Brad Thor would have us believe here. And he pulls it of magnificently.
Then…back in 2004, when Brad Thor wrote this, he was following a long line of thriller writers writing US Presidents who are clever, thoughtful and have gravitas and credibility. These days…well, even turning the dial in my mind back to 2004, it’s still hard to (now) believe I can trust a written US President like Jack Rutledge. It’s something I think thriller writers really need to come out (in interviews probably) and address. I did, I may be seeing mirages, detect something of this sort in the last Mitch Rapp thriller, where the President’s involvement, even after Rapp having worked closely with him in the past, was kept to a minimum. Here, it’s different. It’s before the Insane Clown Posse took over.
But, back to the matter in hand. This is the first real Scot Harvath thriller. This is the one where the character inside the book, does live up to his billing on the outside. I wouldn’t say ‘new readers start here,’ but it’s a close-run thing. The writing is better, the pacing is better, the ideas and background is better, it’s just better across the board. From the first two, Scot Harvath has really come good as well, maybe a promotion, I dunno, I’m not all that up on US Seals and that. But he doesn’t make school-boy errors in this one. In fact, just about everything that was wrong in book one and two, is right here. I did think in the first two, that Brad Thor was writing excellently about US politics – unfortunately, there’s none of that here, but those traits do show up in his decision (once again, it has to be said) to set us down in Europe for most of the show. The Berlin background and the Berlin sections are superb, the final chase to the conclusion, not quite so. The final situation though, is very well done.
I was wondering whether to continue with what I was thinking of as ‘Mitch Rapp-light’ but after reading how much better this was, without being all shiny and perfect, I’m really looking forward to seeing the progression and getting my teeth into the next one.
You can buy State of The Union from Booksplea.se
You may have to put up with a god-awful ‘pocket’ version, if you buy the copy linked to, but as the Brad Thor books don’t seem to have been released for the European market as yet, you’ll have to grin and bear.