Ralph White’s debut novel, Power and Control, a political thriller that takes place in the near future, begins shortly after a cataclysmic Christmas Day that saw entire towns and villages in 19 countries totally wiped out by chemical or biological attacks.
The “Earth Cleansers,” who have taken responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, send messages to eight powerful governments with the pronouncement that they believe the population of Earth must be decimated for the survival of the planet. Christmas Day is just a sample of what is to come on the Ides of March. Each country must send a team of a man and a woman for a race to an unknown destination. The winning country will be spared and will start a new chapter in human history, controlled by the Cleansers. The rest of the world’s population will be wiped out.
Secretly combating the Earth Cleansers is The NOW (Newly Ordered World), a consortium of powerful political allies in several of the countries. Only slightly less nefarious than the Cleansers, the ultimate goal of The NOW is total domination. The members feel that if they can thwart the plans of the Cleansers, they will be in position to control the world.
White’s premise is chilling and frighteningly possible, and the prose is well written and, at times, riveting. However, while readers will be concerned about the fate of the Earth, they will find it difficult to care much about the characters because all of them are evil, and there are so many that none becomes a central protagonist until near the end. In addition, the competition for survival that is promised in the beginning never takes place, and the conclusion, with religious overtones that seem contrived, is disappointing and predictable.
Despite these problems, White’s manipulation of a believable world crisis shows that he has the potential to one day hold his own with today’s popular thriller writers.