/ Published October 22, 2018
Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III, a War Game Scenario by Michael J. Coumatos, William B. Scott, and William J. Birnes. Macmillian Books, Tom Doherty Associates, 2007, 400 pp.
In the techno-thriller Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III, a War Game Scenario, authors Michael J. Coumatos, William B. Scott, and William J. Birnes paint the picture of America’s national security with destroyed and degraded intelligence capabilities. The authors draw on their personal experiences and specializations to place the reader inside the cockpit, the war planning center, and into the middle of a national security nightmare. Coumatos is a former Navy aviator and spent years as a test pilot where he was exposed to the military’s most futuristic air capabilities. Scott also served as an Air Force test pilot and was the bureau chief for Aviation Week and Space Technology International magazine. Their expertise, paired with Birnes’s storytelling skills, create a convincing crisis with global implications and a chilling warning.
The book begins with the US losing some key space assets—both commercial and military—that give it the power to have an updated, 24/7, global intelligence picture. The loss of these key space capabilities suddenly exposes the Achilles heel of the technologically reliant national defense. It soon becomes clear that with degraded intelligence from space, the nation is vulnerable. Malicious actors worldwide recognize the blind spots caused by the loss of overhead assets and attempt to take advantage of the superpower. Everyone, including Columbian cartels, state-sponsored hackers, Iranian revolutionaries, Middle Eastern terrorists, and Russian defectors, converge, preying upon a weakened, blind America. Trying to stay one step ahead of the nation’s enemies are a few elite members of the US national security team. They use their years of analytical experience, a predictive artificial intelligence machine, war-gaming exercises, and a futuristic space spy plane to help the country recover its global position.
I appreciate that this book describes the complex, often incomplete, pieces of intelligence provided by dozens of agencies that go into the national security decision-making process. The story combines open-source, signals, human, and geographical intelligence in a balanced manner that lets the reader and the characters simultaneously analyze the situation and conjure “what’s next?” Although the story revisits key characters multiple times, I never got to the point of investing in one set of characters or one piece of the puzzle. Instead, the situation is compelling and takes center stage.
At some points, it is noticeable that the book is written by three authors, and there are occasional abrupt transitions between scenes within chapters. Additionally, the characters, particularly the women, are underdeveloped and tend to rely on stereotypical archetypes. Notwithstanding, I enjoyed the book and found that it presented a believable chronology of events. I recommend it to anyone interested in national security, decision making during a crisis, and a futuristic fiction that may be more factual than we know.
1st Lt Erika Volino, USAF
Fort Meade, Maryland
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6010