As I wrote in my review of The Monroe Doctrine Volume I, James Rosone and Miranda Watson are excellent writers of military fiction. Their books touch on important issues in the military, foreign policy, and domestic politics spheres, are full of creative plotlines and interesting ways of exposing the intents of our enemies, and are so well-written that the combat in them and campaign descriptions seem more like after-action reports from modern combat than military fiction.
The Monroe Doctrine Volume II is no different than the first in the series. The hair-raising combat kept me both interested and on edge, the course of the American campaign against Cuba and other Chinese allies in the Caribbean made the book impossible to put down (it was so good that I read it in one long sitting), and the way Rosone and Watson depicted naval combat, especially submarine warfare, shed light on a mode of warfighting that many Americans haven’t heard much about since the intense naval combat of World War II.
In short, the strengths of The Monroe Doctrine Volume II are manifold. It’s an imaginative take on what a future war with China might look like and the role AI might play in such a war and its immense depth makes it a wonderful choice for anyone interested in near-future warfare and what weapons might be the determinants of victory in such a conflict.
For example, when we Americans think of combat, we often think of the sort of light infantry combat that had defined our recent warfighting experience. Although there was some level of anti-air (SEAD) combat in the Persian Gulf War and invasion of Iraq, along with some mechanized combat in that invasion, our experience has mostly been one of light infantry forces fighting other light infantry forces. Navy SEALs, Delta Force commandos, and Marine/Airborne brigades, backed up by prodigious amounts of airpower, have taken on the Taliban, ISIS, and al-Qaeda forces.
However, a war with a peer or near-peer adversary such as China would be wildly different, as Rosone and Watson show in The Monroe Doctrine Volume II. Submarines would attempt to infiltrate enemy squadrons, hunt down other subs, and launch covert attacks on distant enemy bases while enemy subs did the same to us. Our ships would be bombarded by volleys of enemy missiles, our fighters and bombers pursued by enemy jets and fired upon by voluminous numbers of AA missiles, and our ground troops attacked by missiles, rockets, and artillery. While Special Forces would still play a role and light infantry combat would happen, the war would be one of high-tech missiles, airpower, and savage naval combat.
The Monroe Doctrine Volume II is excellent in that it awakens readers to that reality. It’s not about the GWOT-type combat present in Vince Flynn novels, but rather the total war-type combat that is far more reminiscent of World War II, thus alerting readers to the dangers and cost of war with China. The plot, descriptions of combat, and everything else are what make the book great and fun to read; the nature of the topic, mechanized future combat, is what makes it interesting and important.
There is, however, one weakness with The Monroe Doctrine Volume II. That is that the authors don’t make the Chinese AI project that important of a topic, after building it up to be of supreme importance in the first novel in the series. It’s periodically alluded to and its amorality is mentioned, but it’s far from the focus of the novel, even if many of the characters describe how important it is to the direction of the conflict. Perhaps such an AI would make a major difference in a future war. There’s reason to believe it would. But Rosone and Watson struggle to show in their novel what its effect would be.
That’s far from a major problem to The Monroe Doctrine Volume II, the book is quite good despite it. However, it would have been better and seemed more incisive had the authors shown the importance of the AI after building it up for so long in the first novel in the series.
Overall, the novel is quite good and one that I would certainly recommend you read. It’s fun, interesting, and exciting. What more could one want from a story?