This summer, I received an advance copy of Power Down by Ben Coes as part of my local library's summer reading program. While the overall plot line and characters are indeed compelling, the book loses a lot in its inattention to the details which allow the reader to suspend disbelief.
Power Down may actually be the worst book I have read since Dan Brown's Deception Point- the glaring factual errors in the description of certain plot elements should be obvious to anyone who took chemistry in high school, has any familiarity with e-mail beyond using AOL, or has ever lived in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Coes also seems to possess a staggering lack of knowledge as to the operation of the fundamental technologies of the internet, which plays a key role in the tracking down of the CIA mole who assists the terrorist mastermind behind the plot of the book. Would it have been all that hard for Coes or someone at his publisher (St. Martin's Press) to track down someone who actually knows something about this stuff and help him get the details right? By the time I finished the book, I had a splitting headache which I attribute to my brain attempting to escape the torture of Power Down by exiting my skull through my right ear.
Some of the basic problems with the novel are so glaring as to make me question the veracity of Ben Coes' biography on his own website. I find it almost impossible to believe that someone who supposedly worked in the White House under two presidents and in a number of positions within the federal government has the ignorance of law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions within Washington, DC that Ben Coes displays.
Coes compounds the problems of the technical errors which run rampant throughout the novel by choosing incongruous similes to use in descriptions of events throughout the novel.
The basic plot:
Dewey Andreas is a former US Army Ranger and current oil rig boss who survives a terrorist attack on his rig, and goes on a mission to find the person (or persons) behind the attack. He soon learns that the attack he survived is not an isolated incident, but part of a coordinated plot to destroy the essential infrastructure of the United States.
Not only would I not recommend Power Down to anyone to read, I can't even loan the copy I have to a friend, because by the time I was done reading it, the book was covered in red ink from the pen I used to make corrections and mark the glaring factual errors. After finishing the book, I am in desperate need of two things: A new red pen (as mine is now out of ink), and a Costco-sized bottle of Advil to treat the throbbing headache I have developed as a result of reading this book. After my headache subsides, I'll start looking for the 15 or 20 IQ points I lost in the process of reading Power Down.