Las Vegas, Nevada. Young Australian computer programmer Daniel Carter has arrived at the heart of the American war machine - the drone program at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs. Naive, untested, but keen to make a difference, he is plunged headlong into America’s surreal battle against its enemies in the Middle East - a battle fought at a distance of 7,000 miles from a city where nothing is real. As geographic and political boundaries blur, Daniel enters into an unlikely romance with a professional poker player, Ania. But when the hunt for an Al Qaeda master-mind ramps up in the skies over Peshawar, and American pilots begin to die in the suburbs of Las Vegas, events take a devastating turn. A novel of a new kind of war, of love and connection in the modern age, Midnight Empire is a powerful thriller that takes us to the troubling epicentre of a foreshortening world. It is a taut and at times terrifying vision of a world without frontiers, a novel about dangerous new realities and how they threaten to transform us.
Who are we underneath it all? Does it matter which country we come from, and will that change our reaction when the chips are down, in a time of war?
These were the questions running through my mind when I finished Andrew Croome’s Midnight Empire. At points philosophical, at others a fast-paced thriller, this is an oddly whimsical look at the War on Terror and its impact upon one Australian man.
Daniel Carter works for a small company in Canberra, specialising in developing secure computer networks. Snapped up by the American Air Force, he travels to that clichéd and unreal city of Las Vegas to help them implement this new technology into their drones over in Afghanistan.
A total fish out of water, he tries to live up to his ideals of good and evil and discovers that things are not always what they seem. There is love, there is friendship, there is work, and there is, strangely enough, an awful lot of poker.
A glimpse into the world of casino living is contrasted dramatically with that of the Air Force base, allowing Croome to flesh out the characters, so that when all hell breaks loose, we can see why Daniel makes the choices he does. As our protagonist, Daniel is endearingly flawed. We feel he’s always a half step to the left from everyone else, and while this occasionally makes for a bumpy narrative, it doesn’t detract from the underlying tension.
This will enthrall anyone interested in computer programming and philosophical discussions on war, as well as those who like a good thriller.
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