Shirley’s cyberpunk magnum opus tells the story of a private security company attempting to use the distraction of a third world war to impose fascism across the United States and Europe, and the guerrillas who resist them. Although first published in the 1980s, the omnibus edition was refreshed by the author for publication in 2012, which gives it the feel of taking place 20 minutes into the future.
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In the novel plagues, sea level rise and the depletion of carbon fuel sources have altered the face of the planet. Biotech megacorps seek to hack together genetic information from what few crops remain in order build foods resistant to the new diseases and monopolize the calorie market. It’s a sort of agricultural cyberpunk. Like all good cyberpunk, it takes place in a familiar feeling future that may not be too far distant.
Kilcullen draws on his decades of experience in asymmetric warfare to develop his theory of fighting small wars in the midst of a big one and the failure of both classical counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency on the modern battlefield.
The local fighter is therefore often an accidental guerrilla — fighting us because we are in his space, not because he wishes to invade ours… he is engaged in “resistance” rather than “insurgency” and fights principally to be left alone.
…The dynamic interaction between the modern international system of nation-states (especially its self-appointed defender, the United States) and these two discrete but often interconnected and loosely cooperating classes of nonstate opponent — terrorist and guerrilla, postmodern and premodern, nihilist and traditionalist, deliberate and accidental — may be part of what gives todays’ “hybrid wars” much of their savagery and complexity.
O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series is a daunting twenty novels, which I was finally motivated to begin after reading a comment on a blog post last year. I am now on the fourth book and — despite not having read historical fiction before this (excepting The Difference Engine and The Baroque Cycle) — have been quite enjoying the relationship between the characters of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, along with O’Brian’s meticulous detailing of Napoleonic-era naval life and combat.