Review - The Edge of Madness, Michael Dobbs

Author: Michael Dobbs
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copyright: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-84737-285-7
No of Pages: 390

Book Synopsis:

Cyber-war. Not the sort that steals identities and raids bank accounts, but the kind that brings nations to their knees, switching off their energy lifelines, crippling financial markets, starving their leaders of authority, making populations panic.

Book Review:

It doesn't seem to matter how adamant I am about the subject matter that I just don't like, there just always seems to be "that book" that comes along and shoots all my prejudices out of the water. THE EDGE OF MADNESS is about cyber-war. The threat of annihilation of the free world at the hand of a shadowy threat, hiding behind computer terminals, in darkened rooms, hidden deep in the new Big Bad Evil nation. The nameless, faceless, threat - as the blurb of this book puts it "no guns, no missiles, no vapour trails stretching like accusing fingers across the skies".

THE EDGE OF MADNESS sees an unlikely gathering deep in the wilds of Scotland. The location where the Prime Minister of Britain pulls together the leaders of Russia and the United States when Britain realises that there is a massive cyber-attack being rolled out against all of them. Sending nuclear reactors into meltdown, crippling financial markets, playing with military hardware guidance systems, deep inside medical systems; the threat is all the more terrifying as it is completely faceless, completely silent and seemingly impossible to find or track. There is only this small, highly secretive gathering of these world leaders and their closest advisors between shut-down and survival.

As is the way with these sorts of thrillers it seems to come down to one man to save the day. In this case, Harry Jones - SAS-trained, resourceful, unorthodox, man on the spot.

It's a really interesting premise that's propounded in this book - cyber-attack, one rogue nation (in this case China) against the once unlikely partnership of Britain, Russia and the USA. The scenario is really good - and the evil (in the person of one Chinese General) is ramped right up to the maximum; the good guys hampered by their own petty squabbles and rats in all their ranks. Possibly what is best about the entire nature of the "threat" in this book is that it all seems feasible, even possible. Somehow you can sort of see this one working as the author as laid it out. And that's from somebody who normally finds these sorts of cyber-threat books cause more groans and eye-rolling per page than just about any other sort of thriller.

Unfortunately, the early promise in THE EDGE OF DARKNESS fizzled out rapidly at the end. It was always really really difficult to see how Harry was going to stop this particular evil, deep inside an impenetrable nation, but when the resolution sort of all fudged into a cloud of confusion and fires and rushing around in Scotland, whilst seemingly unconnected events in China sorted everything else out, it was disappointing to say the least.

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