Action At A Distance

I have just read three cracking thrillers: Nothing to Lose, written by Lee Child in 2008, Zero Day, written by Mark Russinovich in 2011, and Perishable Goods, written by Dornford Yates in 1928. All three are great yarns, and well worth a read. If you would not discover some or all of these any other way, please feel free to take this as a recommendation.
Each book is a child of its time. In Zero Day the heroes battle a devastating Al Quaeda cyber attack on the west. The plot of Nothing to Lose is also about religious extremism and 21st century geo-politics, although from a very different standpoint.
There’s a refreshing lack of religious extremism and geo-politics in Perishable Goods. Chandos & co have to rescue a kidnapped friend from villains who are motivated purely by money and personal revenge. The book wears its 80+ years very well, although some of the writing, attitudes and technology are now amusing. (My favourites, slightly paraphrased, “I was totally alone…, except of course for my manservant” and “after a few minutes the cars were started and ready to move”).
From this you might conclude that the two recent novels are similar, and Yates’ very different, but that’s not correct. It’s actually Zero Day which is the odd one out. The others are both personal battles, largely on a scale where all the protagonists physically interact with one another. Zero Day inhabits a much larger canvas, in which the key players have no such interaction, and portrays a frightening vision in which misfits in odd corners of the world working for small financial rewards can unwittingly create genuine weapons of mass destruction. This anonymous “action at a distance” is genuinely scary, not least because it could really happen, it might even be in progress today.
I enjoyed all three books, but Zero Day really made me think.

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