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Book Review: 2034 by Elliot Ackerman

Updated: May 13, 2021


I enjoy near-future books with plotlines that could be ripped from the headlines––think Malka Older's novels. 2034 is one of these books and is thoroughly enjoyable.

The novel reads like a thriller, each scene told from the perspective of a different character. Each character is well-differentiated from the others and remarkably well drawn for this type of book. One thing Ackerman does exceptionally well is not allowing the excellent characterization to slow down the pace. And honestly, the pacing is what really makes this novel shine.

We're thrown right into the action with a US destroyer group intercepting and boarding a Chinese military ship masquerading as a troller. Little do the US commanders know that the troller is a ploy to draw the US into conflict. What ensues are debilitating cyber-attacks against the US military and civilian infrastructure. It's chilling, to say the least. The escalation in the conflict is eerily plausible.

Another thing I appreciate is the narrative voice characters are all mid-level in the chain of command of their respective militaries/governments. They know enough to paint a picture without getting lost in nitty-gritty details or having such a high-level perspective the reader is lost in the clouds. This works wonderfully because readers gets a 360-degree view of the conflict while still being aware that things are going on they're unaware of. I think this is a tightrope act of giving away just enough to keep readers satisfied without giving away too much. Ackerman accomplishes this with great success.

Overall, this is a fast-paced and believable thriller. The action is exciting, and the characters are great for the genre. The plot jives with what I have heard and read in the news about emerging powers around the world. This gives the story verisimilitude that I personally find very appealing. The ending, right up to the climax, is the edge of your seat nailbiter. This is a must-read for fans of military-style thrillers and is worthy of study by aspiring authors for how Ackerman creates such a fast-paced yet complex conflict.


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