Well, I’m exhausted. I was all, “You know, I guess I’ll read a little bit more of the new Steve P Vincent. And a little more.” *gets popcorn* “Well, I can’t stop now.” *gets wine* “Well, I may as well finish it.” *tablet runs out of battery* “It’s fine, I’ll just read it right next to the wall while it charges.” Upshot is, it’s late, I’m a bit drunk, and I’ve just finished State of Emergency and definitely need a lie down afterwards.
In the first Jack Emery book, Australian reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Emery managed to save the world from a war between China and the USA, in a way that was both action-movie excellent-ridiculous and also kind of realistic, because Vincent has studied political science while I have studied Dwayne Johnson movies for all of my knowledge. This, the second Emery book, is just as gleeful to read—Vincent is more than happy to turn society completely upside down and create a boisterous new world order. A lot of crime thrillers play under the radar in a way that makes you imagine it could all be happening right now, while Vincent’s version of the world is absolutely not happening right now, but ever so alarmingly convincing that it could. And this escalation of reality is totally liberating to read, and super fun.
The USA has been under siege by a series of disastrous terrorist attacks when Richard Hall, the man in charge of FEMA, the States’ emergency resources arm, convinces the president to call a state of emergency and hand over leadership of much of the country to him. Hall is a man who thinks the only way to a Good America is through tight restrictions—curfew, food limits, state guard everywhere—and when the Americans push back, all hell breaks loose. It’s a cacophony of voices, from Emery, who’s mostly trying to stay out of trouble after book one left him emotionally bereft; to Celeste, who conjures such conflicting emotions in Emery that he chose reporting in Syria over trying to deal with his feels; to Sergeant Callum Watkins of the state guard, who is our eyes at the ground level as people begin with hope in Hall’s path and then slowly realise that life is not the same; to the underground resistance that is trying to pursue Jack for his contacts, reach and fame. (He’s won a second Pulitzer inbetween books one and two. Yes, I’m jealous, what of it?)
This is deliriously fast-paced, bloody and unflinching. In a Jack Emery book you can never be assured of the survival of anyone he knows; Vincent doesn’t pull punches with good guys dying, bravely or not. Plans go wrong. Heroes are outnumbered. Bad guys are smug. But Emery never backs down.
From the beginning I was pleased with the number of women populating the book, in high positions (including President of the United States) and everywhere else. They were all over the place, just being normal people, and it’s absolutely refreshing. When you’re a lady sometimes reading a more action-oriented book, you realise women are mostly eye candy, all described only as megababes who are only described according to their level of sexiness. Or there are so few of them that the entirety of the female race seems distilled into one character, who could be beautiful or hideous or a villain. If you have enough women in a book, they just become people. Some are lovely. Some are assholes. It’s like that’s the real world or something, who knows? There is a sprinkling of sexual assault, however, be warned. One other thing: it’s also nice to see America get saved by a non-American. We’ve all watched enough movies where Tom Cruise single-handedly saves Japan while the audience groans to be pleased when America needs help.
In conclusion: don’t start reading it at 9pm unless you have the next day off.