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Publisher's Summary

From two former military officers and award-winning authors, a chillingly authentic geopolitical thriller that imagines a naval clash between the US and China in the South China Sea in 2034 - and the path from there to a nightmarish global conflagration.

On March 12, 2034, US Navy Commodore Sarah Hunt is on the bridge of her flagship, the guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones, conducting a routine freedom of navigation patrol in the South China Sea when her ship detects an unflagged trawler in clear distress, smoke billowing from its bridge. On that same day, US Marine aviator Major Chris "Wedge" Mitchell is flying an F35E Lightning over the Strait of Hormuz, testing a new stealth technology as he flirts with Iranian airspace. By the end of that day, Wedge will be an Iranian prisoner, and Sarah Hunt's destroyer will lie at the bottom of the sea, sunk by the Chinese Navy. Iran and China have clearly coordinated their moves, which involve the use of powerful new forms of cyber weaponry that render US ships and planes defenseless. In a single day, America's faith in its military's strategic pre-eminence is in tatters. A new, terrifying era is at hand.

So begins a disturbingly plausible work of speculative fiction, co-authored by an award-winning novelist and decorated Marine veteran and the former commander of NATO, a legendary admiral who has spent much of his career strategically outmaneuvering America's most tenacious adversaries. Written with a powerful blend of geopolitical sophistication and human empathy, 2034 takes us inside the minds of a global cast of characters - Americans, Chinese, Iranians, Russians, Indians - as a series of arrogant miscalculations on all sides leads the world into an intensifying international storm. In the end, China and the United States will have paid a staggering cost, one that forever alters the global balance of power. 

Everything in 2034 is an imaginative extrapolation from present-day facts on the ground combined with the authors' years working at the highest and most classified levels of national security. Sometimes it takes a brilliant work of fiction to illuminate the most dire of warnings: 2034 is all too close at hand, and this cautionary tale presents the listener a dark yet possible future that we must do all we can to avoid.

* This audiobook edition includes an exclusive interview with co-author Admiral James Stavridis.

©2021 Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“It is hard to write in great detail about what ensues in this novel without giving away the drama of its denouement. Suffice it to say that there is conflict and catastrophe on a large scale, and it unfolds, as major conflicts tend to, with surprising twists and turns.... The strengths of the novel are anything but incidental to the background of one of its authors, Adm. Stavridis, a former destroyer and carrier strike group commander who retired from the Navy in 2013 as NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.... Adm. Stavridis not only understands how naval fleets work; he has clearly given a great deal of thought to America’s biggest strategic risks, and at the top of the list is war with China, which, as this book seems designed to point out, could occur quite by accident and at almost any time.... One of the messages of this book is that war is utterly unpredictable and that opportunist adversaries of the U.S. are likely to play important roles in any widening confrontation.... 2034 is nonetheless full of warnings. Foremost is that war with China would be folly, with no foreseeable outcome and disaster for all. This is not a pessimistic book about America’s potential, but the picture of the world it paints before the central conflict will be a difficult one for many to accept, albeit one well supported by facts.” (Wall Street Journal)

"An unnerving and fascinating tale of a future.... The book serves as a cautionary tale to our leaders and national security officials, while also speaking to a modern truth about arrogance and our lack of strategic foresight.... The novel is an enjoyable and swiftly paced but important read.” (The Hill

“This crisply written and well-paced book reads like an all-caps warning for a world shackled to the machines we carry in our pockets and place on our laps, while only vaguely understanding how the information stored in and shared by those devices can be exploited.... In 2034, it’s as if Ackerman and Stavridis want to grab us by our lapels, give us a slap or two, and scream: Pay attention! George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-four: A Novel was published 35 years before 1984. Ackerman’s and Stavridis’s book takes place in the not-so-distant future when today’s high school military recruits will just be turning 30.” (The Washington Post

What listeners say about 2034

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Meh....

This book started off pretty well, a plausible scenario for a future conflict between two superpowers. However, the book quickly devolves into ill-explained science fiction cyber weapons that can completely shut down enemy technology and render systems defenseless. The only solution is for one side to attack the other with WWII technology and rely on the superior cunning of its service members. If you're into that sort of story, this is a good book for you. However, if you're looking for a Tom Clancy-style techno-thriller with accurate depictions of military technology, I'd pass on this one.

28 people found this helpful

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Too many unbelievable plot elements

This kind of book succeeds or fails on presenting a credible scenario for the unfolding of future events (it certainly wouldn’t want to be relying on the quality of the prose or the character development).  Some aspects of the plot were believable. That a confected incident could escalate out of control in the tense military conditions of the South China Sea is definitely believable. That the Russians could engage in tactical shenanigans with unanticipated consequences I also found believable. That the US arrogantly underestimates its geopolitical opponents and comes a cropper as a result was believable too.


Many of the details, however, left me scratching my head. Military aspects like the fact that the Chinese air force and air defense system were seemingly on holiday for much of the events, lack of use of missiles and particularly new hyper sonic missiles, how much damage a tactical nuclear weapon could really do to a city and whether it could be carried by a F18 hornet are things that others have focused on and I wont reiterate them here.  But the following really caused the failure of my suspension of disbelief.



1.      

The Chinese spend years devising their strategy for invading Taiwan including devilish new weapons, deceptions and the remote hijacking of war planes, but seemed to have ignored the possibility that the action could escalate to a nuclear war



2.      

The Chinese, having developed a game changing cyber capability that could essentially disable all US ships , decided to use that technology on a small number of US ships first, and then allow some of the crew to escape to report back and warn the US naval command, giving them the opportunity to develop countermeasures



3.      

The US, having been given this opportunity, rather than trying to come up with a counter measure, decide to sail a quarter of their navy into the face of this new weapon so that they can be disabled and sunk.   



4.      

That the Russians, on a covert mission to destroy subsea cables and ‘disable the US internet’ (something that there is a degree of debate about I understand since the action would most likely have a worse effect on the Russians, given that so much of the infrastructure on which the internet is based is already in the US) sit and sunbathe above the cables for a few days waiting for the right time to act.



5.      

That the US wouldn’t track a flotilla of Russian boats hanging menacingly around subsea internet cables and send some planes out to intercept,



6.      

That the Iranians don’t take the defense of islands in the Straights of Hormuz seriously.



7.      

That the Europeans wouldn’t intervene in the invasion of a European Union and NATO country, even if the US didn’t.



8.      

That Saudi Arabia and Israel wouldn’t have been centrally involved in a state of war or near war affecting the Gulf



9.      

That there wouldn’t have been an earlier nuclear war had Iran launched a military invasion of the Golan Heights.  



I also disliked a lot of the tone of the book. I don’t think the gravity of the threat of nuclear war was adequately expressed. I didn’t care about the individuals and how they felt if they were complicit in the deaths of millions of people and I found the yahoo-ing, top gun-esque maverick pilot story line, pretty distasteful in the context of dropping a nuclear weapon on city full of civilians.  



But with all the illogicality of the book, the most bewildering thing about it is the author. The precis to the interview at the end of the audio book describes the James Stavridis’ CV which, if true, makes him the ultimate geo-political and military insider. So why when you read the book are there so many illogicalities and non-sequiturs? If the leading lights of US foreign policy and military thinking can be so basically illiterate when it comes to the politics of the world, the US’s days as a superpower must surely be numbered. God help us when she goes down fighting

13 people found this helpful

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good story, not clancy technical though

wanted more technical on cyber attack methods employed and how. suppose we'll just refer to the real world events and papers for that.

8 people found this helpful

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POLITICALLY CORRECT WAR STORY

The world is involved in a great war. India steps up to save us from ourselves. Cigarettes tossed from a jet fighter cocpit remind us of the good old days when life was simpler. Equal opportunity has given us a female president, and a cigar smoking female admiral with the courage to start a nuclear war. Can't we just get along?
P.S. Don't move to Galveston

7 people found this helpful

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WAKE UP CALL!

A must read for those STILL unwilling to acknowledge the world has changed and so have the threats!

7 people found this helpful

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Good setup, disappointing execution

I was eager to read this book, given the reputations of the two authors. The setup of the book that begins the scenario is good and highlights the risks that both the South China Sea disputes and cyberconflict present. The payoff of this setup was pretty disappointing and becomes increasingly implausible. The interview with Adm Stavridis at the end of the book is well worth the listen, as he highlights many of the chief dangers the U.S. faces today quite well.

6 people found this helpful

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Not plausible

The authors want you to think that the bad reviews are because readers disagree with the message. They are because this book jumps around from China is the most technological country in the world to China allowing an American jet to circle its largest city. They have the ability to remotely disable whole carrier groups and then either can't, or won't find one they know carries nuclear weapons. Authors should stick to their think tanks.

5 people found this helpful

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A Harbinger

A Harbinger. It's this generation's On the Beach meets Dr. Strangelove meets the Guns of August.

4 people found this helpful

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Not The Gripping Tale You're Looking For

A tedious story with flat characters and predictable outcomes telegraphed far in advance of the conclusion. Ackerman and Stavridis wanted to deliver a character driven cautionary tale about where the US might be headed, but in doing so they skip by details, cut away from any action, and focus on a set of characters who are mid-level functionaries with little control over events or their respective destinies.

Unfortunately, none of the characters are all that interesting in and of themselves, so you're not left with much to hang your hat on other than to wonder if they can influence anything. If you're looking for something akin to Tom Clancy or Harold Coyle, keep on looking, you won't find it here. This title yadda yaddas its way past anything of technical or political substance.

2 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

This book was recommended to me strongly but I was very disappointed. The political dynamic with various enemies coordinating their actions against the US was interesting, but many of the military developments were frankly ridiculous. The Chinese ambushing and then sinking a small American naval flotilla with a comprehensive cyber attack is certainly feasible, but the story began falling apart for me when we send the entire 7th Fleet into the South China Sea before figuring out what had happened earlier or how to defend against it - and the entire fleet is sunk. I thought India’s pivotal military role, able to detect and destroy both American and Chinese ships and aircraft at will, later in the conflict also to be highly unlikely. All in all, it was frankly puzzling to have this the work of a such a distinguished military officer as Admiral Stavridis.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Greg Chew
  • 09-01-21

Good premise, but failed execution.

Well read - in fact, performed - and a really interesting premise, but ultimately it’s a lightweight version of “The Ghost Fleet” that spent no time creating a narrative of the “how” and a great deal of time, frankly, fluff.
The threat is real; actually, that is underplayed. The reliance upon technology so great, it’s the Achilles heel that decades of regulatory arbitrage have gifted the West’s greatest enemy.
So, the premise works. But at no point is even an attempt made at how this vector can be attacked, removing any real sense of threat.
Further, the story moves in great leaps in which as personal reflective stories you are informed as to events. I really don’t care about the character development and fluff.
Perhaps, growing up on Red Storm Rising and others of that genre I am spoiled. Perhaps I am of a generation that cares more about what is happening than how people feel about what is happening.
Perhaps too, I am neither and this is just a very good premise utterly ruined by a complete failure to own the how and thus drive the compulsion.

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  • x
  • 07-21-21

Disappointing

Poor. Best avoided. The plot is promising but ultimately kindergarten and unrealistic. The military scenarios are unlikely and poorly executed. The characterisations are laboured and mawkish. In short, you are better off reading the original by Gen Sir John Hackett. Much more believable. Shame.

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  • Ant
  • 06-10-21

The book is probably ok but the audiobook is awful.

The female narrator (Emily Woo Zeller )who narrates the Sarah hunt character, a few times tries to impersonate a male character voice and it sounds ridiculous. The plot is wacko , there is no way that India would become the new superpower. As if the Chinese would allow the Indians to destroy one of their battle groups. To think this book was written by ex military officers too.

NATO would come into play as an attack on one is an attack on all. Rather than be relegated to a third world country the USA would have sent intercontinental nuclear missiles and destroyed China rather than losing half their fleet.

I understand there is a three book deal which will be 2054 and 2074 - sorry but I will not be wasting any credits listening to them.

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  • Chris Short
  • 05-24-21

Implausible, poorly narrated and dull,

I bought this having seen Niall Ferguson obliquely recommend it on a Spectator TV interview. The idea that China will be way ahead of the US on cyber stuff by 2034 is plausible enough but that's about as good as it gets. I didn't find the ideas that the Indian Navy will outwit the US Navy, that Michelle Obama will have given permission for a nuclear submarine to be named after her and that the US will engage in a nuclear conflict with all their tech turned off very compelling.

The characters are stereotypical and unappealing - with a bit of virtue signalling thrown in.

Narration is not great.

I gave up with a couple of hours to go and am asking for a refund.



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  • patrick s
  • 05-07-21

Don’t waste your time

If you are used to Jack Carr books and quality narrators, you’ll be disappointed. Keep looking.

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  • H Newsam
  • 04-21-21

Look at today’s politicians when reading

A very scary book. Look at the politicians today who are in charge and ask... how would they deal with a crisis like this? This book should be in your mind every time you cast a vote.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Suzanne Jones
  • 04-20-21

A cautionary tale

The book does well to make the reader imagine a situation where the US faces a near peer adversary in the not too distant future. It provides much to consider about how the west should respond to China’s growing power and the threat of cyber attack. It’s not Tom Clancy but it certainly made me think. The parallels drawn between the US and the end of the British Empire were quite striking. The narration/performances were great too.

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  • Smiler
  • 04-05-21

Re: Unrealistic

SPOILERS FOLLOW
--------------------------

This began well but rapidly deteriorated as it became apparent the authors are completely ignorant of the countries and cultures upon which this plot hinges. Shockingly this book is written by two military officers, and that probably explains the decades of US military and diplomatic disasters in Asia. If this reflects the US security establishment analysis of other cultures, then it can be summarised as: Iranians are over-emotional and filled with unstable rage, the Chinese are inscrutable Fu-Manchu figures, the Russians are dangerously risky schemers, the Indians are passive observers who for decades have hidden Roswell Alien levels of technology etc. Only the Americans have a range of emotions and motives.

Let's consider how likely is it that an Iranian Al-Quds (hilariously mispronounced) commander awarded the Order of Fath (likewise mispronounced) and a monotheist would sit and listen to a lecture on pagan beliefs as a way to interpret the world? How likely is it that that the Iranians would trust the Indians more than the Chinese? How likely is it that the Indians would be able to hack into Russians systems when the Americans can't, & when India can't even produce a decent jet fighter let alone aircraft-carrier? How likely and for what possible reason would the Russians capture Iranian islands in the Gulf, considering the Iranians & Russians are allies? And then the idea that the Pakistanis, one of the closest Chinese allies and with centuries of blood & cultural links to Iran, would stay silent throughout this entire affair and not have been given advance notification by the Chinese is as ridiculous as the idea that the Chinese would have ignored Indian involvement--indeed the very first thing the Chinese would have done is asked Pakistan to preoccupy the Indians.

It's clear that the authors had no idea (or alternatively desire) to state how such a war would proceed hence the deus ex machina of Indian involvement to avoid giving examples of a more realistic strike and counterstrike.

Ultimately this is a terrible book and I regret wasting time and a credit on it.


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  • Mr. Adrian F. Holt
  • 03-26-21

Sobering tail of an avoidable tragedy

The story is insightful, impactful and important.

Some of the situations and characters feel dated, even in 2021, and the delivery sometimes feels out of kilter with the scene.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-15-21

not my best read

For me this book never got going. I found it hard to continue to read but did make my way to the end in the hope it would improve. I found it lacking in detail in most parts and streching details out in parts that really had no need. I,ve read a lot of this genre and enjoy them. Sadly not this book.

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  • Foreign Correspondent
  • 03-20-21

A Woeful Backfire

At first blush this novel has the worthy mission of raising the alarm regarding America's faltering military strength and competence as the People's Republic of China rises to technological and military primacy. But like an aircraft carrier crew facing a barrage of missiles, torpedoes and tactical nukes, you must brace yourself for tedious digressions, nonsensical passages, absurd coincidences, formulaic characters, annoying non sequiturs, cringeworthy cliches, scrambled geography, herky-jerky pacing and treacly childhood-flashbacks-without-end. And after all that, you must submit to the book's limping, trivializing coda. Alas, the call-to-arms mission of this story is sunk by its own depleted prose.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Avid Reader
  • 05-23-21

A good wake up call

Well narrated and a gripping story. It is outlining a path the world could take if we don't try harder to solve our differences. Told as a story rather than a non fiction book it gets the point across in an engaging manner.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dudley
  • 08-12-21

A must read - the next world war

This book is an essential read written by a long-serving 4-star admiral. He continues to serve. Thank you.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Salty
  • 05-14-21

Virtue signalling at every turn

A cliched strewn apology for US self grandiosity. The villains are depicted as a throwback to the 1950's while the US is always morally right even after going nuclear. I hope this book is not meant to be self fullfilling prophecy of better "dead then red".

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-09-21

The recording and narrative is terrible.

Painful to listen and hard to follow. Side stories of characters uninterested. Attempts to pronounce Chinese names correctly was not required and annoying to listen.

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  • Charlie The Wonder Dog
  • 05-02-21

All empires fall …

Great story, the worry is it is absolutely plausible. Fantastic to see an author actually present American decline in a intelligent and realistic manner

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Shaun Haddrill
  • 04-15-21

A wake-up call and thrilling story

I hope that those with power in China, USA, Russia, Europe and India read this book and heed it's warning.

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  • John
  • 03-18-21

Strap yourself in!!

This was a seat of your pants look through the halls of diplomacy, the bridge of a carrier group and the cross hairs of a cockpit. Nothing predictable here just a warning of what might be through the minds of authorities that know. A disaster novel of epic proportions that should be made into a Hollywood movie (just not starring Chris Pine please).

A great listen and well worth the credit.