cover image 2054


Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis. Penguin Press, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-48986-4

Former Marine Ackerman and retired Navy admiral Stavridis follow up 2034 with another top-shelf thriller about near-future geopolitical turmoil. The decade-long rule of American president Angel Castro, whose American Dream Party has weakened both the Democratic and Republican parties to the point of near-extinction, ends suddenly after he collapses during a public speech. At first, Castro’s administration covers up the incident, digitally altering images to make it seem as if he only stumbled. When Castro dies a short time later, however, the deception is exposed, exacerbating political tensions across the country. As the U.S. teeters on the edge of civil war, tech leaders privately struggle with concerns that Castro’s death—the result of a mysterious growth on his heart—may be connected to a nascent biotechnology that can alter human cells via remote gene editing software. If so, the incident may mean that humanity is approaching “the Singularity” long predicted by technologist Ray Kurzweil, in which human and machine merge “into a single consciousness.” White House aides, doctors, tech experts, and military personnel attempt to track down Kurzweil for guidance while keeping the existing shards of American democracy intact. Spreading the narrative’s focus over many characters and nations, Ackerman and Stavridis paint a sweeping and resonant portrait of a world faced with a powerful technological advancement it doesn’t fully understand. The results are genuinely chilling. Agent: (for Stavridis) Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency; (for Ackerman) P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Mar.)