x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

The Towers: Blood and cliches don't add up to an action novel

David Poyer recalls the rumours and bittersweet naivete of the first hours of that cataclysmic Tuesday morning in New York.

For the first 50 or so pages, this really is a "novel of 9/11", and not a bad one. It recalls the rumours and bittersweet naivete of the first hours of that Tuesday morning. As well, there are vivid descriptions that hit all five senses in the long set pieces in which US navy hero Dan Lenson and his wife, Blair Titus, a former high-ranking defence department official, are - coincidentally - trapped in the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, respectively.

In short, The Towers could be a decent disaster novel, with the usual clutch of clichés and cardboard characters. Starting on September 12, however, it reverts to genre and becomes a "Dan Lenson novel", a generic look at the grit, guts and bureaucracy behind headline-making military operations.

What's surprising is how boring the plot is. Because this book more closely follows actual history than the other 12 "Dan Lenson novels", there is no suspense: readers know that Osama bin Laden won't be killed for nine more years.

Perhaps that's one lesson of September 11. The "war on terror" is not a fast-paced action novel.