2034: A Review

BLUF: A riveting, horrifying and fast-paced read with some easily overlooked flaws.

A friend provided me with an Amazon gift card, and at the same time he was kind enough to give me a recommendation for a new book. I have been considering this book for a little while; his enthusiasm pushed me over the edge and I bought a hardcover.

I’m glad I did. For one, it was nice reading a “real” book again. The tactile feel of paper, the smell of freshly printed pages, wonderful. This leads into the next nice thing about the book; it is a natural page turner. Actually, I burned through this book in a day. I didn’t have to force myself to read this. Finally, 2034 was a tense book with lots of action and a too-real sense of immediacy.

Any of you who have been following this page for a while know that I don’t have a lot of patience for ridiculous cost overruns in defense procurement and the stupid fetishization for technology rampant within some in military circles. This book jumps up and down upon exactly these points; our vulnerabilities to disruption along dozens of point failure sources.

There are those who say that we have it all figured out, that we will always stay ahead of our legion of adversaries.

This makes me laugh, bitterly.

Great empires and nations have always said this as the termites chew away at the foundations of their respective civilizations.

When the defense of the republic becomes divorced from the realities of most of its citizens, bad things happen. Also, when the republic buys goods that are defective at birth and expensive to boot, no one should be surprised when they fail, taking talented young lives with them.

Let us never forget that fighters and ships, etc, are expendable end-items. They are tools of war, meant to seek and deal out violent death. They should protect our military men and women as best as possible, they should be mass-produced and cost-effective, and they should be dead reliable and fail-safe on multiple levels.

This all leads into my book review.

The US military as portrayed in 2034 has fallen deeply down a technological well from which it cannot recover; it has been choked to death with legacy systems and fickle cutting-edge tech.

The Chinese military, aided and abetted by Russians and Iranians, proceed to kick the USN and the US Government squarely in the nuts.

OK, as an ex-Army guy I’d love to see the author’s take on what happens with my old branch, but I understand the focus on the Navy and Marine aviation. For one thing, the Navy is at the top of the list for an organization caught up in the technology siren song, as well as being the possessor of extremely expensive “white elephant” surface ships. This makes them prime candidates for disruption by hungry, rising opponents.

The authors deliver on this premise in excellent and horrifying ways.

A complaint: it would have been nice to see how the USAF, another organization loaded down with white elephants, would get pulled into the Pacific vortex, too. Because they would definitely be there.

However, these are quibbles, really. I have others, but I hesitate to add them to this review for fear of introducing unnecessary spoilers.

Suffice to say that I don’t think there was enough of an exploration of emerging warfare assets in space, or perhaps, given the author’s emphasis of this throughout the book, potential usage of the old Mark One Eyeball to foil the various plans of the Chinese and American antagonists.

If you read the book, you might see what I mean.

However, the chief role of fiction authors is to deliver entertainment through a vehicle, in this case a harrowing novel like 2034. Another role some authors have is to deliver a message.

The authors of this book have succeeded in doing both.

This book is an entertaining read, period. Also, the authors successfully point out that American supremacy, hegemony, is not a given; any empire, even if unnamed, requires not just heaps of money spent but money and blood spent wisely.

At present I am far from convinced that this is the case; after reading 2034 I can see that I am not alone in this view.

Will influential people read this book and draw conclusions from it? Impossible to tell.

But some people should, before we live through Zero Day Code or On the Beach.

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