Quick Shot: Ghost Fleet by P. W. Singer and August Cole

Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and August Cole | Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War is a new military thriller available in June. Singer has written several non-fiction titles about war and military industrial complex. This appears to August Cole’s first book and both authors’ first novel. Singer and Cole blend familiar tactics with modern (and future) technologies to tell the story of a Chinese attack on Pearl Harbor that heralds the beginning of another world war. Ghost Fleet is a fascinating premise that, while speculative, is grounded in technologies and tactics that either currently exist or could exist in the near future. The authors’ premise is backed by a rather extensive bibliography at the end of the novel. As such, Ghost Fleet makes an interesting thought exercise marked with some thrilling action set pieces. Ghost Fleet is a breezy, quick read, that will be well-suited to anyone looking for an exciting piece of fiction to enjoy by the pool or on the beach.

Ghost Fleet, while on sure-footing when talking about tactics  and technology, and while dealing with action, is far less sure when it comes to characters. While some exceptions, particularly the U.S. Marines turned insurgents in Hawaii, many of the characters feel like deliberate tropes who fall into familiar roles. The novel, clocking in at decent 417 pages, is fast paced but offers little room for developing the myriad of characters seen across the novel. In a bizarre move there is significant section of the novel  given over to the hunt for a serial killer in occupied Hawaii. This section of the novel marks for a sharp departure from the military and political focus of the novel. If the intent was to illustrate the effect of occupation on the Hawaiian population then it falls flat on its face. That isn’t to say the serial killer story isn’t interesting, or even well-written, it most certainly is both of those things. However, its tone is such a departure from the rest of the novel that I frequently found it distracting. The various perspectives seen in Ghost Fleet could likely have each filled out their own novel and trimming some of the dross could have lead to a deeper emotional investment in the characters. As a result, I was not invested in the fate of the characters and simply pressing forward to see what happened next.

Ghost Fleet, while exciting feels like a novel that could have been far more that what it ended up being. This fact is depressing because it still manages to be an exciting read that draws the reader in with a vivid picture of a war the could have been. Ghost Fleet will be available in the U.S. on June 30th.

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