Before I start writing this review, first let me state my debt of gratitude to the ‘agent’ of its author, Thomas Hobbes: a military theorist and columnist by the name of William Lind.
I started reading his columns in about 2003. I was still a teenager at the time. I was not a terribly right wing teenager, although I read broadly and open-mindedly enough to have my brain fall out a few times. Lind had a very strong influence on me at least in some compartmentalized ways. I did not take him seriously when he would go on rants about ‘Cultural Marxism,’ but I paid very close attention to him when he wrote about war.
Now, I take him a whole lot more seriously across the board, either because I’m older and more knowledgeable, or just a whole lot less cool.
A little more than half of this book has been serialized at Traditional Right, so you can see if you’ll like it there.
This is a novel about a hypothetical future breakup of the United States told through stories of a series of low-grade civil wars. Not being someone with military experience, I can’t speak to the realism of the descriptions of the fighting, but it’s mostly told in an entertaining, almost jocular manner at times. The different parts of the US break down into their degenerate forms; each part suffering some sort of sclerosis unique to that region. A lot of the fighting happens along ethnic, religious, and ideological lines in an irreconcilable way.
The closest author that I’d compare it to is Heinlein — it’s a more involved book than something like Sixth Column.
As far as I can tell, books like this aren’t usually published anymore. It’s apologetically in favor of what a typical early 20th century progressive would recognize as in favor of the foundation Anglo-American values, which in our current culture are completely anathema. This book would be completely un-shocking in 1912, and maybe even unusually left-wing in some of its scenes.
Even though there’s a climactic scene in which radical leftist professors are slaughtered by sword-wielding men, considering how radically values have shifted since the early 20th century, a scene that seems politically unspeakable today would have made a lot more sense to our ancestors.
Without giving too much of it away, the plot is that the Federal government collapses after a brief war, and then an independent republic with its capitol in Maine dispatches advisers to turn various small wars in the other major regions of the US to its advantage. This includes a war against an all-female radical feminist nation that relies intensively on air power and bands of lesbian bikers. It’s a fun book in that way that’s willing to be a little silly when it’s using the plot to illustrate more serious ideas.
If you’ve heard about terms like ‘Fourth Generation War’ before, but aren’t sure where to start, this is not a great book to learn the concepts from the start. For that, you’d be better off reading Lind’s other work or a book like John Robb’s Brave New War or the many books that Lind cites in all of his work. This book on Maneuver Warfare also helps to make certain concepts in the novel more intelligible.
One of those interesting ideas is that of ‘retroculture,’ which is a path that some of the characters and entire countries in the book choose to take in order to guard against the Faustian temptations of modern technology. This is a more techno-fearing variant on the sort of cultural diversity seen in Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age, which was so influential that it inspired the creation of the Amazon Kindle, and even some terminology used in the NRx-osphere.
In the book, people first go back to older technology due to economic circumstances, but then as circumstances improve, they choose to be highly selective about what they adopt.
Overall, I was happy with the book, and read it start to finish over a period of a few days. It helped that I was already familiar with a lot of the books that this one references. I also rarely read novels published after the 1930s, and even then sparingly, so this was a welcome break from a lot of my heavier nonfiction reading.
You can buy the novel at Amazon.