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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

What the critics say

2034 is an exciting, interesting, and informative novel about a hypothetical future war with China that is largely determined by actual decisions already made. It describes in detail how a single technological leap forward by an adversary, in this case China, could destroy our ability to communicate, resulting in a blind, hapless military. It also demonstrates how today’s military policies will leave a future United States without adequate resources to wage a high intensity conventional war and be forced to resort to a first strike nuclear response and its horrific consequences. Anyone who is concerned about where today’s military technology decisions are taking us should read this book.” (Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn and Deep River)

“Chilling yet compulsively readable work of speculative fiction.... Ackerman and Stavridis have created a brilliantly executed geopolitical tale that is impossible to put down and that serves as a dire, all-too-plausible warning that recent events could have catastrophic consequences.” (Booklist, starred review)

“Consider this another vaccine against disaster. Fortunately, this dose won't cause a temporary fever - and it happens to be a rippingly good read. Turns out that even cautionary tales can be exciting, when the future we’re most excited about is the one where they never come true.” (Wired)

“A frightening look at how a major-power showdown might race out of control.... This compelling thriller should be required reading for our national leaders and translated into Mandarin.” (Kirkus, starred review)
 

What listeners say about 2034

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A one-star book by a four-star admiral

To quote another reviewer with whom I completely agree: "Thermonuclear exchanges are glossed over without as much attention as a fender bender in a mall parking lot. The cast of characters are sketched in as stick figures with zero insight into the decision making processes that brought about this disaster." Climate change is mentioned only once, as having reset global geopolitics, without describing what was done and who mainly benefited (presumably the Chinese). But this is in 2034, barely a dozen years from now! The main characters seem to be involved at many intersections of the plot, completely unbelievably. The ending is pure Dr. Strangelove.

The admiral is the "game theorist" part of the authorial partnership and the plot is unimpressive, whereas the novelist partner fails to meet his obligations in this novel.

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A bit of Battlestar Galactica and Tom Clancy

For the first half of the book, I thought I had not enjoyed a fictional book like this since reading the first few Tom Clancy books as a teenager in the early 90s. But then, towards the end, I found that it seemed to lose steam. While there's a coda, and an interview with the author (which I've never seen in an audibook before), I think the book should have gone on for a few more chapters and, um, ended. I was not satisfied in that regard. Maybe the authors had to hit a delivery deadline?
This book also takes pains to hit every nearly social justice warrior item you can imagine. It even takes a swing at fracking.
Spoilers:
The book draws heavily from the 2003 Battlestar Galactica mini-series, where the Cylons have the ability to hack the colonial navy's networked fighters and ships, leaving them defenceless destroying them. The authors might as well called the Chinese "Cylons." They even resort to using ancient fighters as their go-to to fight back, just like BSG. That whole plot-line is very poorly paid off, however. Indeed, I don't think it was paid off much at all. I think they should be sending Ronald D. Moore and David Eick royalty checks.
Written by an admiral, I expected fewer flights of fantasy. I didn't know an F-18 could carry Tsar Bomba, because that's what it would have needed to accomplish what happens, twice, in this book. So much for only using "tactical" nukes. As for the two American cities hit by nukes, one makes perfect sense, the second does not. It should have been Bremerton.
As an admiral, you would think somewhere in this book, U.S Navy submarines would have played a part? Like a salvo or ten of Tomahawks? Maybe a torpedo? I realize that might be pining for Tom Clancy, but there's no way a naval war with Japan does not involve the U.S. Navy's nuclear fleet.
And, given the impact last week of one ship stuck in the Suez Canal, this book doesn't even touch on what would happen to global trade in a war with China. What, are all those container ships going to keep flowing from China to Long Beach while all this is going on? Who would buy the West's exports?
Russia's involvement seemed hackneyed, at best. And they could magically make a whole division of Spetsnaz appear, only to have a "divine wind" intervene? Because that's what happened.
These are some of the reasons why the second half seemed to fall apart for me. After a good setup, it was a poor ending.

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  • Ss
  • 2021-03-13

Boardrooms instead of battlefields

Huge military events are given one sentence descriptions, mundane conversations are given pages.

Not sure why this is set in 2034...
Other than some random references to cyber warfare there’s nothing that requires this tale being set any other time than now.

Ambitious, but falls short.

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  • Tom
  • 2021-04-17

It was ok... it was a bookclub book

interesting idea but fell short on the character depth. overall cool idea for the future

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Save Your Credit

Very concerned the authors have no real understanding of our current world (let alone 2034). To say this book is unrealistic feels equivalent to saying 2020 was mildly unpleasant, lol. Plot doesn’t make sense, characterization sure as shit doesn’t and let’s not even talk about basic facts (M*di is India’s PM, not President). This book is very clearly trying to cash in on current events today and anti-racism movements (and doing a bad job). I would recommend getting this book if you’re in the mood to waste a credit or are for some reason trying to support people who can’t proof read. Voice actors also missed the mark.

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intriguing but highly improbable story

The story bounces between world centers, looks at a world crisis thru the lense of major and minor countries. "The good guy wins" will lead you to cheer for USA. but views from other world leaders creates an irreconcilable difference. The story is really character oriented not a military story, in the end.

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Overall good story, some flaws

Too many stereotypes but a good tactical and strategic analysis. Some of the subplots are corny/cheesy, and some of the characters predictable, but the big picture with the roles of India and Iran make it quite intriguing as a plot.

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Exciting!

Well written near-future military conflict story. Would have been realistic, right up until the events of the last year. Obviously it would be foolish and unnecessary for China to engage with the brave men and women in western militaries. The vast majority of people in the west have shown that we have zero grit and willingness to stand up to any threat at all. They would just have to make threatening noises and we would immediately run to our basements and instruct our politicians to give them anything that they ask for. Interesting and thought-provoking story nonetheless.

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a must read for the times

with every passing day, it seems we're sleepwalking toward the events of this book. entertaining, engaging and thought provoking.

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A heading is required

The story suffered in the telling; intermittently young adult and soap opera. I liked the narrators.

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  • Ronald A McBroom-Teasley
  • 2021-03-10

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.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-03-30

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

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-03-14

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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  • carpet man
  • 2021-03-17

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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  • P. Mikolajczyk
  • 2021-03-13

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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  • Thucydides
  • 2021-03-11

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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  • Jeff Jensen
  • 2021-03-13

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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  • Jim
  • 2021-03-18

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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  • Kindle Customer
  • 2021-06-01

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.

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  • John Mac
  • 2021-03-18

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.

1 person found this helpful