- Book: The Carrier
- Location: Belgium, Sicily, Sweden, United States (USA)
- Author: Mattias Berg
The Carrier is an absolutely fascinating read. It is first of all a really good and absorbing thriller. Erasmus Levine, the bag carrier for the President goes AWOL during a trip to Sweden. It is, of course, not just any bag – it is the bag that carries the codes to launch a nuclear attack, and can never be more than a few feet from the President. What will Erasmus do? What are his plans? He thwarts secret service attempts to neutralise the bag, and heads off into the unknown. A global chase ensues that leads to a dramatic conclusion. So far, so good – an absorbing and exciting read.
But what absolutely distinguishes The Carrierfrom the run of the mill is two things. First, there is the amount of detail that Mattias includes. I have no idea whether they are true or not, but his descriptions of the security and codes surrounding the bag, the likely reaction to the secret service of such an event, and the structure of the world wide web of American and allied bases primed to launch attacks at a moment’s notice, are more than compelling. They deserve to be based on fact… The geography is also spot on and very well researched. Erasmus first escapes into a maze of tunnels and bunkers below Stockholm. Such a maze of tunnels and bunkers actually exists… On his subsequent journey around Europe, he visits a mine in Swedish Lapland (that exists) and US air bases in Belgium and Sicily (that exist). There are also references to named air force bases in the States (that, again, exist). The story is written so that everything in it could be true… you never quite know where fact ends and fiction takes over. And the ‘facts’ are pretty scary.
The characters in the book are all larger than life. Erasmus himself, his partner in crime Ingrid, the scary ‘nurse’, ‘Edelweiss’ (the boss of the President’s protection unit), the Swedish couple – Sixten and Aina. Yet they are all strangely believable – if you suspend belief.
Second, is the message that Mattias is determined to deliver. He clearly believes in the fragility of the current global nuclear set up and the enormous danger this poses. He argues that while technology is in place to prevent an ‘accident’ of terrifying proportions, it is human beings (with all their weaknesses) that control the technology.
The book adds depth and context by going into the details of the lives and research of several of the early pioneers of nuclear and thermo-nuclear discovery. How they felt about the work they were being asked to do in developing weapons of mass destruction. This is done, convincingly and conveniently, by references to Erasmus’ student thesis. It works.
The Carrier is a clear cut above a conventional page-turning thriller. It is a page-turning read – but is is a great deal more besides. It is an intelligent, serious and well constructed work that certainly made me think about the issues it was designed to make me think about.