Book Review – 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman, Admiral James Stavridis

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It initially seemed like another routine freedom of navigation patrol in the South China Sea. Captain Sarah Hunt was the Commodore of Destroyer Squadron 21 when they picked up the distress signal of a trawler, which was 12 nautical miles off Mischief Reef. Although, diverting from their mission to provide assistance is a last resort, Hunt’s intuition told her to check it out. She later finds herself surrounded by a Chinese carrier battle group and unable to communicate with her squadron. Meanwhile, Major Chris “Wedge” Mitchell loses control of his F-35 over Iranian air space whilst testing new stealth capabilities and is subsequently captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Without giving the story away too much, these events fundamentally catalysed the world war, as mentioned in the book’s title.

2034: A Novel of the Next World War is written by former military officers and award-winning authors, Elliot Ackermann and Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN (Ret.). Ackermann is a former Marine who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Admiral Stavridis spent more than thirty years in the US Navy rising to the rank of four star admiral. This plethora of joint experience and service highlights the immense level of expertise that went into writing 2034

Set in the not too distant future, 2034 features a familiar set of adversaries as the current geopolitical climate, that being Iran, Russia and China. The novel pursues the idea that our militaries have become over reliant on technology. In the book, the US’s capabilities are disabled by China’s elaborate cyberattack. It highlights two ideas; firstly, China’s superiority within the cyber domain; secondly, the US military’s over-dependance on technology. As a result of this, Hunt’s destroyer squadron is technologically incapacitated and subsequently rendered defenceless against the Chinese carrier battle group.

2034 enables the reader to comprehend the cyber realm in a broader, more lethal perspective. This provokes them to consider the strategic implications of cyberattacks and its potential to render us sitting ducks. In the novel Captain Hunt reflects that, “there’s still a whole swath of officers in our military who cling to a cult of technology. They cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that an over reliance on these systems has crippled us.” In brief, the novel warns of future conflict with China and stresses the disastrous ramifications of such a conflict. Although it is a work of fiction, these fictitious events, coupled with the current geopolitical tensions of 2021 make it seem as though the events in 2034 are a very real possibility. 

2034: A Novel of the Next World War, is a fantastic piece of useful fiction that is not only enjoyable but truly makes you think about the possibilities surrounding future conflicts. It highlights the enduring nature of war, as backed by Clausewitz, yet it concurrently shows how technological advancements have established new avenues of means. If you have read and enjoyed Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and August Cole then you will thoroughly appreciate 2034. I strongly believe 2034 : A Novel of the Next World War is a must read for all with an interest in defence and shows that professional military education can be a page turner.

About the Author:  Nathan Woodcock is a first year Midshipman at the Australian Defence Force Academy, studying Electrical Engineering.