Hippo Manchester
December 15, 2005

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Books: The Geeks of War, by John Edwards (AMACOM, 2005, 221 pages)

The Geeks Of War: The Secretive Labs And Brilliant Minds Behind Tomorrow’s Warfare Technologies is part Christmas list, part “Triumph of the Nerd.”

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I mean, who wouldn’t want an exo-skeleton that makes carrying 80 pounds feel like carrying five, or an airborne spy drone the size of a swallow?

Think of the possibilities! The exo-skeleton would make short work of moving that sleeper sofa and you could send the drone to scout out parking! The book, essentially a laundry list of high-tech projects geared to create high-tech soldiers, even includes a bit on a new nano suit for America’s fighting forces. Nanotechnology is the science of creating tiny little machines that can self-replicate and team up to do big jobs. In the case of a nano suit they can monitor a soldier’s health, trigger his liquid armor to stiffen up at the touch of a bullet and even change color to match the suit’s surroundings!

Cool, right?

Not so much. The gee-whiz factor only kicks in on a few occasions (I’ve mentioned half of them here) and the rest of the book is god-awful dull. Take the project concerned with making it easier for generals to answer their e-mail for an example. Oh, yeah, and the one on military blogs ... yawn.

The good news, the book says, is that even MRE (meals ready to eat), a staple in most combat soldiers’ diets, will get a high-tech revamp into concentrated energy paste.

Die-hard tech fetishists may like this book, but they’ll likely be disappointed by the lack of detail. (We are talking about military secrets here, after all.) Most others will not be impressed and wonder why the military just doesn’t pick some of this stuff up at Circuit City, saving the taxpayers a few bucks.

— Robert Greene