Cover Image: 2034

2034

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Member Reviews

I believe in one`s mind when they said what power they have or had. I believe that everything is possible in one`s mind if you put effort and work into it. A power that only a few of us can utilize. A power shown in this book.
This is a story of a war between two large countries. A story made by two veterans. Two people who would know war better than anyone. The clash happened in the future in the year 2034, just like the title of this book. A lot is happening in this story. well, we are talking about war so obviously and literally many things are happening. They are not just focused on the two countries but also on other countries with power on par with the two. Iran, Russia, and India to name a few. This is not your story with a happy ending. This is a story for me that I can see as one of the millions of possibilities that can happen. an event that you thought was an accident but only to know that it was all staged by some higher-ups who want nothing but power over everything. A never-ending clash just to be called the biggest and successful country. A clash that would benefit those who are sitting behind their desk and be suffering to rest. This is a powerful vision presented by two great minds.
This is intimidating and thrilling. Intimidating that everything that was said in the story might be possible and thrilling for the new knowledge I never knew before. A book that I can see people will go back to if it all happens. One great and terrifying book.
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Published by Penguin Press on March 9, 2021

2034 is a geopolitical thriller set in — you guessed it — 2034. It blends diplomacy with military fiction to create the possibility of a nuclear apocalypse. Will the world end in nuclear strikes or will cooler heads prevail? I won’t tell, but I will say that I didn’t know how the story would end until it ended.

The primary boogeyman in 2034 is China. Russia and Iran and the United States contribute to the unnecessary escalation of hostilities while India plays a surprisingly central role after the war heats up. The tension begins as China continues to assert its false claim of sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. The US Navy is patrolling the area to minimize Chinese aggression when the Chinese reveal their cyber supremacy by disabling communications and most electronic systems on the Navy’s ships and airplanes. They also sink a couple of American warships and hack the communications systems of the US government. Meanwhile, Iran uses the same technology to take remote control of an American F-35 that has not-so-accidentally strayed into Iranian territory to test its new stealth capacity. Frankly, any country that breaks the rules to see if they can get away with it should have its toys taken away, but the American government obviously doesn’t see it that way.

A character with a John Bolton attitude toward American supremacy tells the American president to retaliate. Sandeep Chowdhury, a deputy national security advisor, is a voice of moderation in the administration but he doesn’t have the president’s ear. Lin Bao is a voice of moderation in the Chinese government, but he becomes a convenient scapegoat when things go wrong. Chowdhury’s uncle in India, Vice Admiral Patel, makes an informal attempt to act as peacemaker — as in, “you guys make peace or else” — leaving the reader to wonder whether good sense will prevail over an increasing escalation of strikes that will eventually assure the absence of winners.

Other notable characters include Major General Qassem Farshad, who doesn’t appreciate Iran’s role in this mess and is rewarded for expressing that opinion by being tasked with defending the Hormuz Strait islands against a Russian invasion. The pilot who lost his fighter to Iran, a man named Wedge who is the fourth generation in a family of Marine pilots, relishes the opportunity to lead a squadron of Hornets in an attack against China. The Hornet is the only available aircraft that can still be flown after all their electronic communications systems and computers are ripped out to prevent them from being hacked and hijacked. Sarah Hunt, the commodore of the squadron that mostly sinks in the initial conflict with the Chinese, does not relish her return to command after she learns that the war is about to become very ugly.

Road to Military Apocalypse novels have been around for decades. The plot’s familiarity does not detract from the story’s ability to engage the reader. The authors build tension by personalizing the story, showcasing characters who know what they stand to lose if hawks and despots prevail. It is, after all, the impact of events on people, rather than events themselves, that give a novel its heart. If Wedge comes across as a clichéd character, he is at least a likable cliché. Hunt could use an infusion of personality. Choudhury, Lin Bao, and Farshad are better characters simply because they each display more than one dimension.

While the action scenes are exciting — Wedge’s attempt to elude superior fighters in his stripped-down Hornet is a particularly entertaining segment — the authors made a smart choice by giving more attention to political conflicts than military battles. Spreading those conflicts across China, Iran, and the US (rather than focusing solely on American players) contributes to the story’s interest. The authors give the story a twist by making a convincing argument for India as a key global player. The anti-Chinese sentiment of Americans who don’t know the difference between a Chinese-American and a Chinese politburo member adds another nice touch to a story that, in the end, reminds us that America is about opportunity and unity, not supremacy and division.

RECOMMENDED
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My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Publishing for an advanced copy of this book.

2034 by Eliot Ackerman and Admiral James G. Stavridis shows a future that seems not as different as now, but one in which one global power can turn off the ability of another global power's ability to wage war. This book is very reminiscent of the novel Ghost Fleet, both feature China and the United States in conflict, both have the US losing the technology war, but here the explanation of what the secret is, how the technology works is never shared. The book is also oddly written. Where other writers would have large set piece battles and explanations many of the important scenes are told in conversations or in characters watching news reports. I could understand if the technology was the star and not characters, but neither seem to stand out. The politics seems more today than tomorrow. Nations seem to be acting oddly, but future casting could be the reason. The book might be marketed for the techno-thriller crowd, but it falls somewhere between, more a scenario for a role-playing or a article for Foreign Affairs.
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2034 is an intriguing work of speculative fiction that requires anyone with a passing interest in geopolitics to pick up this book and dive in.Set in the near future, Ackermand and Stavridis envelope readers quickly in the new world they envision and the events leading to its creation. 

What if China possessed cyber weapons that could shut down US strategic assets? How would the US respond? Would other powers like Russia and Iran take advantage of the opportunity? Which nation would step up to help calm the escalating tension that could easily lead to nuclear disaster? All of these questions are explored within this gripping tale told at the personal level. 

Including a diverse cast of characters that I easily identified and sympathized with, the story is ripe with conflicting interests, personality clashes, and life and death decisions further emphasized with the gut wrenching impact on the individuals living through the experiences.

Not since Red War in 2019 have I enjoyed a large-scale warfare book like this.
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Thanks Penguin Press and Netgalley for the ARC. Great book.  If you were a Tom Clancy (Jack Ryan) fan, this will be right up your alley. It’s a gripping story of a future world war and the intentional and somewhat accidental decisions leading to its escalation. Definitely a cautionary tale. Highly recommend this.
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Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book, despite some of the implausible technical leaps involved in order to kick the premise off. Having multiple point-of-view characters can be tricky to pull off, but I think it is done pretty well here and helps give the conflict a sense of vast scope.

I found the book much less compelling in the second half, though. Some of the POV threads went off in directions I no longer found interesting (the Iranian guy, specifically). Some of the scenes were downright bad and/or cringeworthy (the golf scene).

I also found the ending to be very anticlimactic: <spoiler>despite the fact that Beijing is knocked out by a nuclear weapon, a clumsy truce is reached through a sequence of events I found both implausible and confusing.</spoiler>.

There were are a few points where the writing was jarring; at least two times when I hit a word and came to a screeching halt because it was just being used incorrectly.
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I am not a military veteran. Admiral Stavridis is. I don't doubt the escalation of tensions in the South China Sea or use of new technologies to wage a primarily cyber war, but my thoughts and readings on traditional warfare and proportional responses is that since the end of the first stage of the Cold War (and the assumption that we are in the second stage, which feels even more evident with the acknowledgement of the depth of the hacks executed by the Russian government while Chinese soft power will be utilized extensively to reshape parts of Africa and South America in their image in post-COVID economic recovery), wars have remained exclusively cold between nation states. Espionage and cyberwarefare are the tools of the trade for contemporary warfare. 

The remainder of this review contains spoilers. 

With the resumption of traditional neo-liberal politics in Washington that seek a more conciliatory tone to Beijing, the prospect of a war going not only hot but nuclear in 13 years time is difficult to believe. Especially to assume that the policies of mutually assured destruction are no longer the go-to. A nuclear strike consisting of a single bomb on one mid-tier city does not feel like the retaliatory actions the United States would take in response to a fleet sinking and infrastructure attack. Nor does a two city attack of cities, one the western seaboard that isn't LA, SF, or Seattle, sound like what would be done in response. When Shanghai is nuked at the end of the book, there is no retaliation of any kind as the sides work to bring peace. Mutually Assured Destruction means that the only winning move is not to play. 

That said, the personal intrigue and multi-state negotiations and smaller acts of warfare were enjoyable to read. I just personally find it difficult to believe that nuclear assaults on the nationstate level is something still hypothesized in today's thinking.
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This was such an interesting read - a speculative fiction about what may cause the next world war in 2034. Several different narratives unfold following a US Navy Commodore, Marine aviator, the US president, and interrogators and leaders in India, Iran, and China. I sometimes don't enjoy stories with alternative perspectives, but this was the perfect balance of viewpoints from a very large cast. The background and personal perspectives were so well developed. I could believe that these people were completely real. I felt tender hearted towards so many of these characters; I would easily pick up any one of their autobiographies if it existed.

The only thing I wish was slightly different was that the war was slightly more complex and ended differently. This was beautifully character-focused and an overall great story.
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Good stuff. An imaginative story using present-day facts combined with the authors’ years working at the highest levels of national security creates a cautionary tale that presents the reader a dark yet possible future. The authors do a good of job depicting the costs of geopolitical disagreement, while not concentrating on hardware like most military thrillers. Some of the more exciting scenarios occur offstage. This might be best for readers seeking a realistic look at how a future world war might play out. 

Thanks very much for the ARC for review!!
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