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  • Writer's pictureIan Murphy

A Review of 'Ghost Fleet' by August Cole and P. W. Singer

Book: Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War 

Authors: August Cole and P. W. Singer 

Main topic: Potential implications of technological advancements on future conflicts and the need for preparedness in the face of evolving threats.  



Published in 2015, Ghost Fleet is a techno-thriller that holds relevance, even nearly ten years later. The fictional novel presents the reader with a near-future vision of the world that is engulfed in a global conflict, which incorporates advanced technology, military strategy, and human stories. The book’s narrative unfolds through multiple perspectives, offering insights into the experiences of Russian, Chinese, and American soldiers, hackers, politicians, and ordinary citizens as they navigate the chaos of war. At its core, Ghost Fleet is a cautionary tale exploring the potential consequences of emerging technologies, geopolitical tensions, the disillusionment of alliance networks, and the evolving nature of warfare. 


The novel opens with a devastating surprise attack on the United States by a Chinese and Russian coalition. This attack cripples America’s military infrastructure and technological capabilities, leaving the nation in chaos. As the conflict escalates, the US is forced to rely on unconventional tactics and a “ghost fleet” of outdated warships to mount a counteroffensive. The story follows a varied set of characters that each play a crucial role in the war effort. Among them are the seasoned naval commander tasked with leading the ghost fleet, a hacker working to disrupt enemy networks, a group of Marines undertaking guerrilla warfare in the occupied Hawaiian Islands, and a young female scientist navigating the war effort.  

The authors delve into the intricacies of cyber warfare, space-based weaponry, drone technology, and soldier medical enhancements, highlighting their potential impact on future conflicts. Ghost Fleet is more than just a war story, it is a thought-provoking exploration of the future of warfare and the challenges that lie ahead. The authors’ meticulous research and insightful analysis make this novel a compelling and timely read for those interested in military strategy, technology, and the future of global conflict.  


As part of the fictional intelligence (FicInt) genre, Ghost Fleet demonstrates the future effects of current or viable technologies and attitudes. Fictional intelligence is an approach that blends research, future forecasting, and creative storytelling to explore potential scenarios and their implications. It involves crafting compelling and reasonable narratives that depict plausible future events, technologies, or societal changes.  

Ficint narratives like Ghost Fleet spark innovative thinking and challenge conventional assumptions. By exploring “what if” scenarios, analysts can break free from linear thinking and consider a wider range of possibilities. This can be particularly valuable when dealing with complex, rapidly changing environments. By presenting a future scenario, FicInt can help intelligence analysts identify potential blind spots or vulnerabilities that might not be apparent through traditional analysis methods, allowing us to find hidden risks and opportunities. 

Closing thoughts 

Ghost Fleet stands as a powerful example of fictional intelligence, blending compelling storytelling with insightful analysis to explore the future of warfare. By combining research of technological advancements, geopolitical tensions, and human stories, the novel depicts a thought-provoking picture of a future global conflict that we can start preparing for today. Nearly a decade after its publication, Ghost Fleet’s relevance persists, highlighting the power of FicInt to challenge our assumptions, expose vulnerabilities, and spark innovative thinking about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Whether one is interested in military strategy, technology, or global conflict, Ghost Fleet is a foundational read. It serves as a reminder of the importance of foresight, adaptability, early investment into preventing conflict, and resilience in a world where the only constant is change.  



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