After America

After America

by John Birmingham

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The world changed forever when a massive wave of energy slammed into North America and wiped out 99 percent of the population. As the United States lay in ruins, chaos erupted across the globe.

Now, while a skeleton American government tries to reconstruct the nation, swarms of pirates and foreign militias plunder the lawless wasteland where even the president is fair prey. In New York City, armies of heavily armed predators hold sway—and hold off a struggling U.S. military. In Texas, a rogue general bent on secession leads a brutal campaign against immigrants. And in England, a U.S. special ops agent enters a shadow war against a deadly enemy who has made the fight personal. While the president ponders a blitz attack on America’s once greatest city, the forces of order and anarchy wage all-out war for postapocalyptic dominance—and a handful of survivors must decide how far to go to salvage whatever uncertain future awaits . . . after America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345502926
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/26/2011
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 575,831
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.14(d)

About the Author

John Birmingham is the author of Without Warning, Final Impact, Designated Targets, Weapons of Choice, He Died with a Felafel in His Hand, The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco, How to Be a Man, The Search for Savage Henry, and Leviathan, which won the National Award for Nonfiction at Australia’s Adelaide Festival of the Arts. He has written for The Sydney Morning Herald, Rolling Stone, Penthouse, Playboy, and numerous other magazines. He lives at the beach with his wife, daughter, son, and two cats.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

New York

“No siree, Mister President, you do not get these from pettin’ kitty cats.”

James Kipper nodded, smiling doubtfully as the slab-shouldered workman flexed his biceps and kissed each one in turn. His Secret Service guys didn’t seem much bothered, and he’d long ago learned to pick up on their unspoken signals and body language. They paid much less attention to the salvage crew in front of him than to the ruined façades of the office blocks looking down on the massive, rusting pileup in Lower Manhattan. The hard work and unseasonal humidity of Lower Manhattan had left the workman drenched in sweat, and Kipper could feel the shirt sticking to his own back.

Having paid homage to his bowling-ball-sized muscles, the workman reached out one enormous, calloused paw to shake hands with the forty-forth president of the United States. Kipper’s grip was not as strong as it once had been and had certainly never been anywhere near as powerful as this gorilla’s, but a long career in engineering hadn’t left him with soft fingers or a limp handshake. He returned the man’s iron-fisted clench with a fairly creditable squeeze of his own.

“Whoa there, Mister President,” the salvage and clearance worker cried out jokingly. “I need these dainty pinkies for my second job. As a concert pianist, don’tcha know.”

The small crush of men and women gathered around Kipper grinned and chuckled. This guy was obviously the clown of the bunch.

“A concert penis, you say?” Kipper shot back. “What’s that, some sorta novelty act? With one of those really tiny pianos?”

The groan of his media handler, Karen Milliner, was lost in the sudden uproar of coarse, braying laughter as the S&C workers erupted at the exchange. That did put his security detail a little on edge, but the man-mountain with the kissable biceps was laughing the loudest of them all, pointing at the chief executive and crying out, “This fuggin’ guy. He cracks me up. Best fuggin’ president ever.”

Kipper half expected to be grabbed in a headlock for an affectionate noogie.

That would have set his detail right off.

But after a few moments the uproar receded.

Kipper’s gaze fell on a woman, who’d remained unusually reserved throughout. Doubtless one or two of his detail were watching her closely from behind their darkened sunglasses. He caught her eye and favored her with an indulgent grin by which he meant to convey a sense of amused pity. She obviously did not fit in with this gang of roughnecks. Her features were fine-boned, and she didn’t look like somebody used to long days of heavy manual labor. As he so often found when he traveled around to “meet the peeps”—his daughter’s term, not his—the peeps intrigued him. This nation of castaways and lost souls all had their stories. And you had to wonder what paths had brought biceps guy and this quiet woman to New York three years after the Wave had dissipated as mysteriously as it had arrived.

“Mister President,” Karen Milliner said, “we really need to get a move on—the schedule, you know.”

Jostled out of his momentary ponderings by the director of communications, his flak catcher in chief, he nodded and smiled apologetically to the workers.

“I’m sorry, guys. Just like you, I am a mere civil servant, and my boss here”—he jerked a thumb at Milliner—“says I gotta get back to work.”

The small crowd booed her but cheered him as he waved and began to walk away with his personal security detail shadowing every step. Cries of “Thank you, Mister President” and “Way to go, Kip” followed him down into the graveyard of corporate America.

The stillness of the ruins soon returned. Grit and debris crunched underfoot as the party picked its way through the wreckage of Wall Street. Only the sound of the pigeons, which had returned to the city in plague numbers, broke the silence. The ecosystem within the Wave-affected area seemed to be outstripping all scientific predictions in terms of recovery. Wood chips and piles of tree branches lined the streets. The buzzing roar of chain saws joined in with the heavy metal crash of machinery. Much of the cleanup work in places like Manhattan pertained just as much to brush clearance as to vehicle pileups or burned-out buildings. It wasn’t like the great charred wastelands left by the firestorms that had covered so much of North America. There was life here, of a sort. He could smell it in the fresh-cut timber of an island fast reverting to its original, heavily wooded state.

Away from the raucous cheers of the salvage crew, Kipper fell deep into the well of his own thoughts. He took in the sight of a Mister Softee ice cream van that had speared into the front of the Citibank at the corner of Wall and Front streets. A couple of bicycles lay crushed under its wheels, and jagged shards of glass had ripped through the scorched, filthy rags that once had clothed the riders. He had to remind himself that they hadn’t died in the auto accident. They had simply Disappeared like every other soul in this empty city, like everyone across America four years ago.

“Traffic’s not too bad here,” he ventured to Jed Culver for want of something better to say. “Not like back on . . . what was that last cross street, where those guys were cleaning up?”

“Water Street, sir,” one of his Secret Service detail offered. He was a new guy. Kip didn’t know his name yet, but his accent was local. You had to wonder what that was doing to his head.

“Most of these cars were parked when the Wave hit,” Culver added. “Mostly pedestrians and bike riders through here, health nazis, that sort of thing. Water Street was busier.”

Culver’s soft Southern drawl, a Louisiana lilt with a touch of transatlantic polish, trailed off. The silence of the necropolis, a vast crypt for millions of the Disappeared, seemed to press the air out of him. Kip turned back to gaze down the shadowed canyon of the old financial district. The intersection of Water and Wall was a wrecking yard of yellow cabs, private cars, and one armored van that had been broadsided by a dump truck and knocked completely over. The impact had smashed open both rear doors, and a few buff-colored sacks of old money still lay unwanted on the ground. None of the salvagers bothered with the dead currency, which long since had been replaced by the less valuable New American Dollar. They had returned to attacking the tangle of metal with earthmoving equipment, sledgehammers, chains, and pure grunt.

It was the loudest noise in the city.

Kip shook his head and turned back.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s keep going.”

At the corner of the JP Morgan Building they encountered the weather-worn façade of the New York Stock Exchange. A large soiled and tattered American flag hung loosely from the Roman columns of the neoclassical structure, held in place by creeping vines as much as by nylon ropes. Kipper had never been to Wall Street, or New York City for that matter, and photographs of the Street always made it appear larger than life. Now, here, in the presence of what had been the most powerful engine of capitalism on the planet, it felt small and almost claustrophobic.

Down at the end of the street he could see a church of some sort, dwarfed by the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan. Kipper wasn’t a religious man, but the sight of the steeple deepened his melancholy, driving it toward the deeper blue depths. More than a few nut jobs had proclaimed their own end of days interpretations of the Wave. For his part, he still believed that there had to be a rational explanation.

But what that explanation was, nobody knew.

He indulged himself in a melancholy sigh.

The party was small for a presidential caravan: just Kipper, Jed Culver—Karen Milliner, and half a dozen security men in dark coveralls and heavy combat rigs. There was no getting rid of them. An army of looters was currently denuding the eastern seaboard of everything from sports cars and heavy equipment to computer game systems and jewelry. Kip often found himself contemplating the lot of Native Americans when whitey turned up. An entire continent was ripe for the taking, and nobody seemed to care that a small number of locals already had a claim on the place.

The irony, or tragedy he supposed, was that most of the Native American population had been wiped out by the Wave. He wasn’t sure how many remained. Next year’s census would, he hoped, shed some light on that. There simply hadn’t been time to organize a full survey of the population since the Wave. There was too much to do just keeping their heads above water. For one thing, the East Coast was overrun with raiders and pirates. Many were part of big criminal syndicates out of Europe and South America, some of them operating with tacit state backing—where states still existed to give that backing—and the balance was a swarm of smaller private operators mostly based in the Caribbean but sometimes hailing from as far away as Africa and Eastern Europe. From the briefings he’d had back home in Seattle, he knew you really didn’t want to tangle with those guys. Half of them were whacked off their heads on weird-ass cocktails of jungle drugs. They came for the luxury cars and high-end goods. They came for the salvage potential of so much copper, iron, and steel. They came for the jewels, gold, and art, leaving MOMA and a dozen other museums stripped bare, their treasures scattered to the four winds.

And some came specifically to kill any American they could get in their sights.

According to Jed, on any given day there could be up to eight or nine thousand freebooters in New York, and unlike the army or the militia, they were not hemmed in by rules and law. “You ever work here, Jed?” Kip asked.

“On the Street, you mean, Mister President? No. I did a stint in New York about eight years back. Worked in-house with Arthur Andersen. But never on the Street, no.”

The president craned his head upward, looking for the Marine Corps sniper teams that had slotted themselves into the buildings above his intended route. He couldn’t see them and had to suppress a shiver. There was just something wrong about this place. Vegetation had come back much more quickly than anyone had imagined, probably helped by the flooding and storms of the last few years, and the entire city reminded him of a weed-choked cemetery—a cemetery that was also a battleground.

It had taken one of the U.S. Army’s remaining brigade combat teams, augmented by militia units, to clear just the southern end of the island for his visit. And even that clearance was less than perfect, leaving porous gaps through which everyone and anyone could slip. It took an additional force of marines, special forces, and private contractors to secure a solid wedge from the World Trade Center down to Battery Park and across to the ferry terminal for his visit—and once secured, a battalion of Governor Schimmel’s Manhattan Militia irregulars threw up a cordon none could pass without lethal consequences.

Karen Milliner stepped up to his elbow and spoke quietly.

“The media are on site, Mister President. We’d best a get a move on.”

He wasn’t sure why she felt the need to keep her voice down. He had specifically said he wanted to make this part of his inspection alone, just himself and his chief of staff. Karen came along simply because of the media events that bracketed his stroll through the dead city.

Kip turned away from the NYSE only to pause and stare at the grand Doric columns of Federal Hall. Washington’s statue still stood on a plinth in front of the building, which had gotten through the last few years in much better shape than some of the larger, more modern buildings around it. A cleanup crew had swept away any debris and vegetation from the stone staircase, and the first president’s statue gleamed as though freshly scrubbed.

“Just gimme a minute,” he said.

Kipper crossed the street, prompting his security cordon to follow him, with Culver huffing and puffing to keep up. At the steps of the building he gazed into the upturned eyes of George Washington before reading the inscription at the base of the statue.

On this site in Federal Hall

April 30, 1789

George Washington

Took the Oath as the First President

Of the United States

Of America

“Mister President?” Culver tugged at his arm.

Kipper frowned at his chief of staff. He’d labored manfully to get Culver to call him Kip or even Jimmy—ordered him to more than once, in fact—but the former attorney insisted on the formalities. Kip suspected he enjoyed them. Jed’s considerable bulk was constrained in a dark blue three-piece suit, which must have been a terrible inconvenience; the president wore jeans, tan Carhartt work boots, and a ballistic vest over an old L.L. Bean shirt. Even that modest outfit was uncomfortable in the heat and humidity. The damn weather, it was still all over the goddamn place.

“Just one more minute, Jed.”

Looking at the statue, Kipper wondered what truly had gone through Washington’s mind on that day. He was the leader of a newborn nation on the brink of a vast wilderness surrounded by both real and potential enemies. He had given up command of the army against the advice of many officers who’d argued against the move. Faith in the system he was helping to establish—that was the lesson Kipper took from Washington.

Reading presidential biographies was a self-imposed requirement for a job he felt poorly qualified to do, yet they never truly got to the heart of the men who were his predecessors. Of them all, Kipper really identified only with Truman, who felt as if the barn had fallen in on him when Roosevelt died.

At least he knew it was coming, Kipper thought ruefully. He marveled at the path he had traveled: from being an anonymous city engineer in Seattle to provisional president and ultimately elected to a full four-year term as president of the much reduced United States in January 2004, not long before the Wave finally lifted. A hell of a trip.

“Okay, I’ve probably seen enough,” he conceded. “Just thought it was important, you know, to have a look for myself.”

“That’s why people like you, sir.” Culver smiled. “You like to get your hands dirty. Come on, shall we get back to the convoy? This place gives me the creeps.”

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After America 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Rick_WeberFan More than 1 year ago
The first book wasn't all that bad. This is where it's truly sinks in that you're reading a book written by a leftist wacko. By the time you get to Angels of Vengeance you're sure that Birmingham thinks that the military is nothing but a bunch of sickos, that anyone who believes in the security of our borders is akin to being a murderer and that only Fox is biased. The covers look really cool. The second and third books of this series are nauseating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is an entertaining continuation to the book "Without Warning" but even 150 pages from the end I could see this story was not going to wrap up. Nothing was was brought to fruition and it leaves everything hanging at the end. The characters are varied and entertaining, the story is exciting and filled with detail but not dragging. Where is the climax? Sort of like the someone intended this to simply be a bridge to the next book. That being said, when the next book comes you will be in the dark if you do not read this one. I was a little disappointed, but not so discouraged that I will not read the next one in the line.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Several years have passed since the catastrophic wave of energy destroyed the United States in 2003 that came like a tsunami Without Warning. Scientists remained baffled with what caused it, why it abruptly vanished a year later and how to prevent a return. In the meantime the White House moved to Seattle where American President James Kipper is frustrated with no answers and as is the case with the traumatized people struggling to endure, he fears what will happen if another such wave assaults the continent. Still he pushes forward with the greatest reconstruction project in the history of the world. President Kipper visits the Declared Security Zone of New York where militia and pirates rule the city and the burbs, but is greeted by an assassination attempt. At the same time in the breakaway republic of Texas, farmer Miguel Pieraro follows the path to citizenship in the New America until an ethnic cleansing campaign led by a rogue army officer destroys his family. In England, American army officer Caitlin Monroe struggles to survive an assault on her life. Finally, in the wasteland of the Middle East comes a major threat to what is left of the world. Between lawlessness on the eastern seaboard and what is occurring overseas and in Texas, Kipper, a builder by heart, needs to find his warrior fortitude as he is reluctant to confront anyone with America still reeling; but ignoring the threats to local security will destroy the United States permanently. The sequel to Without Warning is a terrific exhilarating thriller that grips the audience from start to finish. Heroes are everywhere from every walk of life whether they are city engineers turned POTUS, a Mexican-American farmer, an overseas officer and others risking their lives against ruthless lethal fully armed adversaries. Readers will enjoy this exhilarating post-apocalyptic tale that stands alone, but enhanced by reading what the wave caused first. Harriet Klausner
rivkat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading this, I kept thinking about Rudyard Kipling. Birmingham is an excellent adventure writer with a great sfnal imagination who has totally bought into the Huntington ¿Clash of Civilizations¿ thesis. This is the second book in a series, which begins when an unknown force wipes out every living soul in a great teardrop shape covering most of the continental U.S. and significant portions of Mexico and Canada, so that what is spared of the U.S. is only Portland and surrounds, Hawai¿i, Alaska, and Americans overseas including a large portion of the military. Among other things, this results in an Israeli nuclear first strike, an Indo-Pakistani nuclear conflict, and the expulsion of many dark-skinned immigrants (and second- and third-generation citizens) from the UK, all of which are background.The narrative focuses on the President (a former civil engineer), a retired assassin brought back into active duty when someone tries to kill her husband and baby daughter, a South American immigrant trying to take advantage of the new U.S. settlement rules which award land to people willing to homestead, and a couple of other characters, including a Polish army officer gaining U.S. citizenship via military service and a child soldier brought to the U.S. to engage in jihad in the hotly contested/pirated/looted ruins of NYC. Basic message: the American dream is the right one; a lot of the people who epitomize the American dream are immigrants. Main bad guys: Muslims (there is one progressive Muslim character who helps the assassin). Secondary bad guys: white supremacist Americans from the breakaway Texas Republic. The President even says that they lost sight of the true American dream, so we know it¿s true. Greens (a powerful party, given that Portland¿s citizenry now represents a substantial percentage of America¿s) take a whupping too¿they ought to know that genetically engineered crops are the only hope now that the heartland is a wasteland. And Americans in the military are too politically correct, according to the Polish officer, uncomfortable with racial slurs even when they have no problems killing a group of African Muslims. I have the feeling that Birmingham, an Australian, is working through some sort of ¿I love humanity; it¿s people I hate¿ thing with America/Americans.On the one hand, Birmingham recognizes that every character has reasons for his (or occasionally her) beliefs and actions. Almost everyone does brutal things in order to survive; there are no innocents. On the other, Muslims are piratical rapists determined to wipe out all non-Muslims, so it¿s pretty clear which non-innocents Birmingham thinks have the better claims. It was just hard for me to follow the adventures of the protagonists, which had plenty of drama, without thinking about all the other people¿mostly from Africa and Asia¿dying from nuclear fallout, uprooted from the lands of their birth, or otherwise devastated, and wondering about how their stories would have gone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't lay it down.
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This was a good 2 nd book in this series. My only complaint is it seemed to skip over a lot of information I wiuld have liked to know about how things developed after the wave. It just felt like it was setting up the next book instead of telling its own story. Having said that,it was still a good read with some interesting storyline developments especially of Sophie and her dad and the President .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My husband loved this book and plans to order the next book in this storyline.
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Sansabiel More than 1 year ago
Very scary, very possible, although I don't know where our enemies would get a Wave, but the collapse of some societal norms, almost overnight, seems likely under a similar circumstances and I would like the hope that there would be some of capable of getting their act together enough to pull the rest of us through and force us to stop panicking and start rebuilding. I do wish I had known that this was a series since I got the sequel first and then read the first book after. A little warning would have been nice.
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