‘2034: A Novel of the Next World War’

With tensions high around the world, this geopolitical thriller hits the mark.
‘2034: A Novel of the Next World War’
"2034: A Novel of the Next World War," by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis.
2034: A Novel of the Next World War“ envisions a terrifying and plausible near future where escalating tensions lead to a catastrophic conflict between the United States, China, and their respective allies.

Authored by two formidable veterans of the Armed Forces, “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” is a smart, well-researched, boldly envisioned global political thriller that keeps readers guessing until the last sentence.

Former U.S. Marine Elliot Ackerman took his combat and White House Fellow experiences and partnered with the equally impressive U.S. Navy Admiral (Ret.) James Stavridis to create a chilling novel about what might happen if current international disputes were to spiral out of control.

Sino-US Relations Break Down

The premise of “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” centers around the eponymous year when geopolitical tensions between the United States and China have reached a boiling point. The two nations find themselves locked in an intense standoff that escalates into an all-out war, pulling numerous global powers into the fray.

The story begins with a supposedly isolated incident involving an American naval squadron in international waters, commanded by Capt. Sarah Hunt, commodore of the Destroyer Squadron 21, which quickly escalates into a series of retaliatory moves by both the United States and China.

The conflict rapidly expands, drawing Russia, Iran, and India—each nation with its own stakes and strategies—into the unfolding global conflict. Mr. Stavridis and Mr. Ackerman expertly shift the narrative to various hotspots around the globe.

The tension is palpable, and each chapter raises the stakes. An invasion of Taiwan seems imminent, but blind spots in U.S. surveillance systems means that the Chinese fleet could be hiding in giant swaths of the ocean. When the president’s office circulates a memo about the United States launching a possible nuclear strike, the characters are forced to consider the reality of a third world war.

A naval encounter in the China Sea kicks off a high tension geopolitical thriller. (Photos_Footage_11111/Shutterstock)
A naval encounter in the China Sea kicks off a high tension geopolitical thriller. (Photos_Footage_11111/Shutterstock)

The Players on the Chessboard

The book introduces us to Capt. Hunt, who commands a squadron of destroyers in the China Sea. The brooding captain knows that her current command is her last seagoing mission. Hunt is struggling to accept that a previous on-duty injury will soon relegate her to a desk job for the rest of her military career. As she stands on the bridge of the John Paul Jones, she feels the weight of her years behind her, and the bitter taste of what lies ahead.

Her squadron is patrolling off of Taiwan, a somewhat aggravating presence to the Chinese government, but Hunt has been instructed not to make any further “waves” with Beijing. That all changes when a suspicious boat on fire is discovered nearby. Hunt decides to investigate despite this being a gray area.

Her choice turns out to be disastrous. A trap is sprung, which gives the Chinese military a pretext to attack her squadron. The ensuing action is vicious and devastating, resulting in two of Hunt’s ships sunk and her own crippled; the encounter becomes known as the “Wén Rui Incident.”

Simultaneously, as the Wén Rui Incident is playing out, F-35 pilot Major Chris “Wedge” Mitchell is flying near Iranian airspace when he suddenly finds his plane hijacked by a cyber intrusion—his plane abruptly refuses to respond to his commands and is now seemingly flying itself. Worse still, the plane lands in the hostile territory of Iran, and Mitchell is immediately taken prisoner.

As these incidents unfold at different points across the globe, Chinese Adm. Lin Bao calmly explains to U.S. Security Council staffer Sandy Chowdhury what is happening in real-time to America’s navy assets: the F-35 and the John Paul Jones.

Chowdhury is astounded at the intelligence this adversarial commander has at his fingertips—Lin even contemptuously shows off how he’s aware of the text messages the staffer has on his phone from his family.

A fighter pilot becomes a pawn in this thriller. (zieusin/Shutterstock)
A fighter pilot becomes a pawn in this thriller. (zieusin/Shutterstock)

It becomes immediately apparent to the U.S. military command that its cybersecurity has been heavily compromised. The command is being attacked on several fronts but soon finds itself deaf, dumb, and blind to almost all its once-trusted systems.

China continues to apply deception and trickery when it approaches the United States with an offer of an exchange. It promises to secure the return of the captured pilot if the United States releases the vessel Capt. Hunt seized during the “Wén Rui Incident.”

Authors’ Invaluable Experience

A geopolitical thriller like this can be tricky to pull off, but Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Stavridis execute this mission with great skill. “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” features a variety of locations that serve as key theaters of conflict, including cyberspace.

Battle scenes and strategic maneuvers are expertly crafted with technical expertise. The reader feels the tension and urgency of the unfolding crisis. “The plane began to cast off altitude, corkscrewing its descent into Bandar Abbas. One last try. Wedge stamped on the rudder pedals pushed and then pulled the throttle, and tugged on the stick. He then reached under his flight vest where he carried his pistol.”

“2034: A Novel of the Next World War” is more than just a military thriller; it is a profound warning about the fragility of global peace and the complexity of international relations in the 21st century.

The authors’ detailed knowledge of military strategy and international politics turns a fictional account into a compelling cautionary tale.

Through its riveting narrative and well-crafted characters, “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” not only entertains but also invites readers to reflect on how close we are to such a devastating reality, yet how an engaged, alert, and resolute defense can overcome even the most dire circumstances.

‘2034: A Novel of the Next World War’ By: Elliot Ackerman, Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN (Ret.) Penguin Press, March 9, 2021 Hardcover: 320 pages
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Freedom Chevalier is an award-winning, best-selling ghostwriter, author, and former journalist. Connect with her at ChevalierCreates.com