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The Edge of Madness by Michael Dobbs

If a Carbon Tax was levied on novelists then Michael Dobbs would incur a minor credit crunch. This thrilling, incandescent and fast paced novel tells the tale of a co-ordinated cyber attack by the Chinese sending devastating computer signals along the Internet crippling not only financial markets, but starting a nuclear meltdowns in Britain at Sizewell B. During the course of the narrative, oil is spilled and ancient buildings are set ablaze. Harry Jones, an SAS trained agent, encounters his own guilt from the past, and undergoes a trial of fire whilst dealing with a decidedly dodgy bunch of defensive World leaders in secret conference, in a castle, on the West Coast of Scotland, very possibly in Argyll. This is an adventure worthy of the Jacobite traditions of Robert Louis Stevenson's David Balfour in Kidnapped with a body count to rival Macbeth.

The Edge of Madness by Michael Dobbs

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: George Care
Reviewed by George Care
Summary: High octane political thriller about Internet warfare set in Scotland, China,Russia and the Middle East
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN: 978-1847372840

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Harry Jones is swept away from the delightful prospects of a pleasurable encounter in London with a wonderfully architectural American lady to deal with the wicked and conniving Fu Zhang, right hand man of the Chinese leader, of whose favoured mistress he sadistically disposes and proceeds to direct an unreliable army of perfidious technocrats in their electronic intrusions into Western computer networks from an underground centre in Shanjing. It appears UK is their initial target lead by the dubiously charming Prime Minister, Mark D'Arby.

Dobbs is excellent on parallel processing, particularly when conveying the actions of different political leaders in their different countries and contexts. We are treated to an excellent commentary on what happens when a muscular but asthmatic Russian leader is caught in the chaos of a traffic jam on his way to a secret military terminal next to Sheremetyevo airport. Dobbs excels at these vignettes which update the reader on the economic and moral conditions prevailing simultaneously in different parts of the globe.

Then too, we are briefly taken to Balmoral and meet a somewhat Alan Bennetish Queen, who gives marital counselling to Blythe, woman President of the USA. The latter is suffering not only from the consequences of digital interference but the traumatic effects of her straying husband and the recent loss of her mother. More worrying to Harry is the exact purpose to which the suave and persuasive Prime Minister D'Arby is manoeuvring him.

It has to be said that in such a pacy and febrile narrative, it is perhaps not surprising that at times the characters appear a little one-dimensional. Dobbs is attempting to cover, literally and metaphorically, an expanse of geopolitics. His grasp of technology shows his excellent research and the themes of ageing and associated stress and illness are constantly addressed in this engaging adrenaline pumping thriller.

Although the storyline grips to the final pages, the resolution of the situation does not completely satisfy. The good folk turn out to be the hospitable Scots, their myths and their landscape. Indeed it is especially the young scion of the family who makes Harry realise how much he has lost because of his own feckless fathering in childhood. Dobbs has given us another electrifying read – especially if you can relish the dark edgy machinations of the zombiemachine operators, hackers, and their potential inflammatory uses by dangerous and malign foreign enemies.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Empire of Lies by Andrew Klavan.

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