In This Review

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War
Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War
By P. W. Singer and August Cole
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 416 pp

Singer and Cole use this fast-paced tale of a hypothetical future war between the United States and a somewhat tentative Sino-Russian alliance to explore the vulnerabilities of advanced weapons systems and the advantages of more basic weaponry. After effectively blinding U.S. surveillance with cyberweapons, China attacks Pearl Harbor and occupies Hawaii. The “ghost fleet” of the title is a collection of mothballed U.S. ships whose outdated technology allows them to survive in an environment in which new systems are unable to operate. The ghost fleet—along with other old-fashioned weapons, such as patriotism, grit, and self-sacrifice—allows the United States to fight back. The authors have fun (and so does the reader) imagining a world shaped by the widespread use of stimulant drugs and Google Glass–like devices and in which women play vital combat roles. One problem is that it’s never quite clear why the war started, nor why the Russians joined the fight. As always, when drawing up scenarios for future wars, the hardest thing to do is make the politics credible.