In Lightning Fall, American diplomats (in a thinly disguised Hillary Clinton administration) seem unable to grasp that other nations might be happy to see the United States destroyed or drastically weakened. Though the book was written months ago, their shocked and ineffectual response seems entirely credible in light of the similarly shocked and ineffectual response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s incursions in Ukraine. The world is not much like the Model U.N., and our adversaries are, in fact, on the other side. Russians, Chinese, Iranians, North Koreans: All would have more freedom of action if the U.S. were weak, and they know it. That our leaders have trouble understanding this as a goal is, alas, not fiction.

Neither, I’m sorry to say, is the politicization of the disaster relief efforts in Quick’s book. While Quick, a San Francisco tech guy, doesn’t always quite capture the idiom of official Washington, he’s got a good sense for its actions, as opposed to its words. “Never let a crisis go to waste” is the motto of our ruling class, and Quick’s illustrations of how politicians of both parties respond are, unfortunately, all too plausible in general.

And even without such overt disasters, Washington continues to run up debts future generations won’t be able to pay, to pass bills that no one has read, and to engage in policy experimentation whose consequences will be borne not by the experimenters, but by the experimented-upon. The results are likely to be poor.