Balance of Power

Balance of Power

3.5 7
by James W. Huston
     
 

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Off the coast of Indonesia, an American cargo ship has been seized by terrorists, its captain kidnapped and its crew mercilessly slaughtered. In Washington, a peace-loving President's refusal to punish the transgressors has enraged the sitting Congress, led by a wrathful Speaker of the House.

An ambitious young congressional assistant

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Overview

Off the coast of Indonesia, an American cargo ship has been seized by terrorists, its captain kidnapped and its crew mercilessly slaughtered. In Washington, a peace-loving President's refusal to punish the transgressors has enraged the sitting Congress, led by a wrathful Speaker of the House.

An ambitious young congressional assistant, Jim Dillon has discovered a time bomb hidden away in America's Constitution—a provision that could be used to wrest power from the Chief Executive, a long-forgotten law that could incite a devastating constitutional crisis . . . and plunge the country into chaos.

Now, as a battle group steams toward a fateful confrontation in the Java Sea—commissioned by Congress and opposed by the President—Dillon finds himself in the center of a firestorm that rages from the highest court in the land to the killing fields half a world away. Suddenly there is much more at stake than the life of a single surviving hostage and a superpower's military credibility—as a great nation prepares for war . . . against itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Book World
If you like Tom Clancy, you'll love Balance of Power.
Rush Limbaugh
A fascinating book. . .I heartily recommend it.
Stephen Coonts
Hardball politics and deadly force—fire and gasoline in a terrific, fast-paced debut novel. Move over Tom Clancy and DaleBrown—make room at the bar for James Huston.
San Francisco Examiner
Huston's geopolitical thriller debut is a winner.
tephen SCoonts
Hardball politics and deadly force—fire and gasoline in a terrific, fast-paced debut novel. Move over Tom Clancy and DaleBrown—make room at the bar for James Huston.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A lot happens, to no great purpose, in this lackluster debut from former Navy pilot Huston.

When Indonesians hijack an American freighter and kill the crew, the president refuses to retaliate. So the speaker of the house moves for impeachment on the grounds that the president is a closet Mennonite and pacifist, while his young aide Jim Dillon helps revive the congressional Letters of Marque and Reprisal, privateer commissionsto punish the hijackers, thus setting off a minor civil war at sea. Dillon gets off the Hill and into the action when he carries a Letter of Reprisal to the U.S. Navy group in the Java Sea and, in an even loopier plot turn, asks to go ashore with the invading forces. Off the battlefield, Dillon proves himself a wimpy washout in a tepid romance; the "terrorists" turn out to be merely pirates; the crisis is declared moot by the Supreme Court; the speaker inexplicably kills the impeachment bill (there is never a word about a vice president); and Huston strives for an ironic politics-as-usual ending. Except for David Pendleton, a silky old pro of a lawyer who steals every scene he's in, the characters are cardboard cutouts, while the book's hawkishness wears thin fast.

Library Journal
In this much-touted debut, Congress threatens to take military action on its own when pirates hijack a merchant ship. Film rights have been optioned by Jerry (Top Gun) Bruckheimer.
Kirkus Reviews
A debut military thriller that delivers the requisite guts and glory while making a meaningful statement about the ambiguous role of violence in America.

Huston, a former Navy F-14 flyboy, bases this intelligent if somewhat wooden page-turner on the scruffy antagonism between Newt Gingrich and President Clinton. His fictional stand-ins lock political horns over the proper response to a terrorist attack on a new American merchant vessel in the South China Sea. After pirates kill the crew, booby-trap the ship, and take the captain as a hostage to an uncharted Indonesian island, gassy President Edward Manchester decides to claim the high moral ground by not responding with force. His situation, we learn through the eyes of his beautiful (and chaste!) aide Molly Vaughan, is that he's tied by the Indonesians themselves, who refuse to let the US Navy fly over their country. Meanwhile, Molly's on-again, off-again romantic interest, Jim Dillon, a legal assistant to House Speaker John Stanbridge, points out that the Constitution permits Congress to issue a letter of marque, that is, hire a vessel to make war on another nation for the US. When the terrorists—apparently a group of anti-American Muslims—release a videotape of the captured captain to CNN, Stanbridge, a grandstanding conservative Californian, surfs the wave of public indignation and gets Congress to issue that letter of marque to a bunch of gung-ho Navy brass who want to show the terrorists what Americans are made of. Dillon learns that aggression has its price: To rescue the captain from a pathetic bunch of fake Muslim pirates, 19 Americans die, among them a missionary killed by friendly fire.

When motivated bypolitical vanity, are symbolic shows of force worth the cost? Huston's answer, a qualified yes, is supported by numerous heartstopping scenes of military derring-do, steely camaraderie, and selfless patriotism.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061803192
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/17/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
560
Sales rank:
161,087
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Good morning," the man said in English, not taking Phillips's hand.

Phillips looked into his dark brown eyes. There was no joy at being a Ford mechanic in them. "You boys here to get the cars ready?"

"Where is captain?" the man asked. He had a perfect complexion and dark eyes. His eyebrows were thin lines. He was much shorter than Phillips, who was six feet tall and weighed two hundred fifty pounds. The small man weighed half as much.I could crush him like a bug, Phillips said to himself as he unconsciously sucked in his belly.

"What do you need to see the captain for?" Phillips asked, annoyed. "Can I see your papers?"

"Where is captain?" the man said in a quiet voice, standing steadily, unintimidated by Phillips.

"I suppose he's on the bridge. But before we do anything, I need to see your papers.

The man put his satchel down and squatted next to it. He opened the zipper half-way and quickly pulled out a Chinese Type 64 machine pistol with a long silencer. He came up suddenly and placed the barrel under Phillips's chin. "Where is captain?"

"What the hell, . .?" Phillips's mouth suddenly went dry.

"Shut up," the man said quietly.

Phillips nodded.

"Take us to captain," the man insisted. "Now." He eased the pressure of the barrel on Phillips's chin. Phillips swallowed hard. His heart raced. He tried to think of some way to deflect them, to get theminto a compartment he could lock, but his mind wouldn't work fast enough.

"Now," the man said again.

Phillips walked forward down the passageway Franklin had used. He stopped at the foot of a series of ladders that led to the bridge. As he missed the first step, his bootsmacked the tiled deck with a loud noise. The leader moved up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. He leaned forward. "More noise, I shoot." He put the pistol in Phillips's back. "Understand?"

Phillips nodded. He climbed the ladder carefully. As his head reached the next deck, another sailor was waiting to go down the ladder. "Get out of here!" Phillips said in a terrified whisper with a wild look in his eyes.

"Why the hell should I?" asked Bart Jenkins in his usual cavalier tone as he stood waiting for Phillips.

"Now!" Phillips whispered, wanting to scream at him.

The leader noticed Phillips had slowed. "What doing?" he said, pushing up through the hatch with surprising force. Phillips rolled off the top of the ladder onto the deck. The leader stuck his head up through the hatch and saw Jenkins, who froze as the man raised his gun and shot.

Jenkins's knees gave out and he fell as two bullets screamed by just above his head. His adrenaline took over. He scrambled on his hands and knees through a hatch and around a corner.

The leader pushed his way past Phillips and stood. Two other men in Ford coveralls climbed up next to him and looked around hurriedly with their AK-47 assault rifles ready. They pointed anxiously in the direction Jenkins had gone. The leader shook his head, clearly not concerned.

Phillips stood.

The leader looked at him closely. "Who that?" he asked.

"Bart Jenkins."

"What does he do?"

Phillips almost answered automatically, almost told him Jenkins was the radio operator. "Engineer," he lied.

He looked at Phillips for several seconds before speaking again. "To the bridge," he said.

Phillips made his way up the next ladder, and the one after that, followed by a long trail of men in Ford coveralls. As they moved snake-like through the ship, thePacific Flyer's crewmen assumed they were the Ford mechanics they had been expecting.

They stopped behind the bridge, and Phillips pointed to the door. "That's the bridge."

The leader looked around and put down his bag. The next five did likewise and removed their AK-47s. They spoke rapidly in what Phillips guessed was an Asian language, walked quickly through the door onto the bridge, and covered every entrance. Bonham leaped to his feet from his captain's chair, confused. Tommy Bacon stared open-mouthed. The leader crossed to Bonham and lowered his gun. "You captain?"

"Yes, I am. Who the hell are you?" he replied, trying to control his anger.

"Shut up." He pointed to the other men in coveralls with a wave of his handgun. "They do what I say. Understand?"

Bonham stared into his eyes, trying to read his intentions. "What do you want?"

"Ship."

Bonham tried to hide his surprise. He lowered his voice. "You can't have it," he said, his blue eyes burning.

"Already have," the man replied gruffly.

"Thehell you do. You can do anything you want to me. The rest of the crew won't do what you want."

"Yes, they will," said the leader. "You have weapons aboard?"

"No," Bonham said.

"Yes, you do. Small-arms locker on second deck," the leader said, shaking his head. "You think we not find out before, Captain Bonham?"

"How do you know my name?" Bonham asked, stunned.

"You lied," he said to Bonham sternly. He motioned to one of the men, who pulled Phillips to the center of the bridge. "Need punishment. The second Ford man took Phillips's hand and held it on the brass railing around the helm. He smashed his rifle on Phillips's left forefinger. Everyone on the bridge could hear the bone snap. Phillips fell to his knees in pain.

"You son of a bitch!" Bonham yelled at the man with the rifle as he held Phillips's shoulder.

Phillips's face turned bright red as sweat beaded on his forehead. He held his left hand with his right, fighting the pain, trying not to scream.

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