Not your ordinary "apocalyptic" book.
Most "end of the world" or "return to the dark ages" books involve some sort of disease (The Stand) or nuclear war or financial collapse. This one is unexplained (yet - there will
be sequels), yet elegantly simple. The "what if" in this case is: what if (by an as-yet-unknown method) the bulk of the United States of America went away? What happens to the world order without Team America: World Police (explicit lyrics warning)
Very much in the style of a Tom Clancy book, this story shifts all over the world: from France to Gitmo; from Hawaii to Kuwait; even the middle of the Pacific. The difficulty with reading such globetrotting books is that there is a lot going on in a short span of time. Therefore, it can be easy to lose the sense of how concurrent some events are and how much time went by between events. The way this long book handles that problem? Omnia libra est divisa in partes tres
: the first section is the first 24 hours after "the event"; the second part is one week after; and the last third is one month after.
One of the most glaring drawbacks of this book is that once you're between the halfway point and two-thirds through, you begin to realize there is no way all these plot lines are going to be neatly tied up. In fact, it becomes quite obvious that you're reading the first book of a new trilogy (unless the author decides he's going to throw a huge twist and resolve it all in the most depressing way possible!).
The only other criticism is that you know certain characters will end up in certain positions or coming together in some way - there is a little suspense regarding the process by which this will happen, but not enough to really surprise you.
That said, there are some fun surprises along the way (who dies, who was involved in other things unbeknownst to the main characters), as well as some interesting "cameos".
All in all, it's best to know going in that you are reading the 1st of 3 books, and not a standalone book. Still, this was an interesting read, especially for Ameriphiles.
A better book I'd recommend along the lines of "rebuilding America from the remains": Executive Orders by Tom Clancy.