‘Act of War’ a heart-pounding thriller that exceeds expectations

07/27/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

“Act of War” by Brad Thor (Atria, 368 pages, $27.99)

In Brad Thor’s latest thriller, “Act of War,” Scot Harvath finds his hands full when a snag-and-grab operation for a terrorist unveils surprising information. It involves a top-secret operation by a few key individuals in the Chinese government with the goal of devastating the United States. The ambitious plan has every chance of success and would take down the country before a response could be mounted.

The president wants answers, and implements two missions that if known could mean the end of his career. One involves Harvath and the other will send a group secretly into North Korea. Failure in either case would mean the end of everything.

Thor’s novels work at a higher level than most thrillers of this subgenre involving special ops and the war on terror. These soldiers utilize everything at their disposal to keep the United States safe. And Thor creates a read that feels like the TV show “24” on the page.

– Jeff Ayers, Associated Press

“Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies” by Lawrence Goldstone (Ballantine Books, 428 pages, $28).

The flight was not even really a flight, just a short hop – some 120 feet. But in successfully flying a controlled, powered aircraft on the beach of Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright did what many had tried and failed to do before.

Their accomplishment, a combination of American ingenuity, pluck and perseverance, is familiar fodder for high school reports. The story that Lawrence Goldstone tells in “Birdmen,” his enthralling new account of flying’s wild early years, is a much darker version. The brothers’ ingenuity is not in question, but they were also petty, vindictive, litigious businessmen who, Goldstone suggests, impeded the progress of American aviation.

At stake was a central issue: Was powered flight a concept open to all who could master it, or a patented process that could be owned? The Wrights insisted it was the latter, and moved to patent flying itself, and their decisive innovation of lateral control, a twisting of the wings that provided stability. The patent claim was breathtaking in its sweep. Yet, as Goldstone shows, flying could not be contained.

– Matthew Price, Newsday

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