I'm beginning to write a novel on a person in the military, and this is set in the future so the technology would be different, but I want a basic overview of every branch of the military. This would include weapons, ranks, strategies, jobs, everything. Does anyone have any recommended books or movies or even google searches? Please and thank you for your help.

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    you might also want to look into military speech patterns -- so you can make sure your characters' voices sound authentic.
    – abcd
    Jun 13, 2015 at 4:51
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    You don't state how far into the future you want to base your story. If it is more than a few years surely you are at liberty to make up weapons, ranks, etc. In fact, you will need to account for the fact that warfare will have changed so dramatically that it won't look like what it does today. For example, ten years ago how many drones were used? Twenty years ago did anyone know what a road side bombs were? Jun 13, 2015 at 17:34
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    It seems like you know what you need. Why don't ypu research it? Or do you expect someone to do your research for you? Go to your local library. Use a search engine. What's so difficult? Or are you afraid of the time you'll have to invest? To write military fiction you have to make yourself an expert. So educate yourself.
    – user5645
    Jun 13, 2015 at 18:07
  • Military Science and Tactics - Engineers Basic copyright 1938, 1942 covers a lot of the basics. Your library may have it. If not, Amazon. 3000 years from now, a military crest will still be a military crest to the guys on the ground. May 5, 2017 at 20:12

7 Answers 7


I am a big fan of Sun Tzu. His "Art of War" is still relevant, so I suppose it would remain relevant in the future as well. He writes about general concepts like supply lines, instead of specifics like cavalry or drones. The concepts do not change, I guess.

Another book I would recommend is "Catch 22". It's absurdity and horror give a very good show of how military service actually feels.

Two things separating the military from civilian life are the lingo and the discipline. That's the two things I remember best from my bootcamp, anyway. You can assume your average reader would be a civilian, so his introduction to the military environment would be similar to the introduction of a rookie to bootcamp. The lingo you can make up, since you're in the future. The discipline - it's up to you just how uptight your military is (there's wide variety between modern armies, and different divisions in the same armed force), but there would be something. You can look here for more discussion of military discipline in fiction.


I suggest you do not try to read too much because you may overwhelm yourself where you never begin to write. Instead read a couple of the best.

One Book Will Help

I suggest you read a great book like Tom Clancy's Every Man a Tiger (non-fiction) amazon link

Reading that book will allow you to simmer inside the military lingo and honestly you could probably get everything you need from that book alone if you read it extremely carefully.

Second Book For Fun

Then also read a rip-roaring military fiction piece like John Ringo's Live Free or Die

After you read those two -- or maybe even before you complete them -- START WRITING.

A lot of your story won't be any different than any other story and won't require you to know every detail of military anyways.

Good luck.


There are downloadable bundles of books full of this type of information. Many of them are public domain books. Military type manuals are also sometimes bundled with self-survival, bush life type of bundles, all of that info makes great source materials.

Also, don’t forget to read from the masters of the genre like David Weber, John Ringo, or Jack Campbell.


A book I would recommend is I Am A SEAL Team Six Warrior by Howard Wasdin (Amazon link). Wasdin was, as the title states, a member of SEAL Team Six and served in the Middle East. Assuming you are researching the modern military, this would be a good primary source. It may not be the best if you are researching other aspects of the military such as command or medical fields, but from a special forces and combat perspective, this should help you out.

Also, the Call Of Duty games may be a source of some realism. One of the studios (Treyarch I think) has an ex-military member who helped with realism in speech patterns, call signs, slang, etc.

Hope this helped.


A History of Warfare by John Keegan (1993) is a very good staring point. Beginning with his book branch from there using the extensive bibliography. Then track down autobiographies written by military personnel.

For an overview of military structure visit http://www.defense.gov/, and click on "Organization" under the "About DOD" menu. For an overview of military equipment visit http://www.janes.com/.

Any of the earlier books by Tom Clancy are pure gold. The Hunt for Red October gained notoriety for discerning (what were at the time) military secrets [NY Times article]. I refer you to that as an example of how -- with sufficient research -- "military fiction" can push through into fact.

PS: A nice essay on the topic of the Future of War appeared recently on Quora [link].


You ought really read everything Liddell Hart wrote. They are no nonsense literature, which is also very well written and easy to read.

Because the technology will be different (seeing how you said your fictional story takes place in the future) real strategy is what you'd be best off studying. For the equipment, anyone can go and read the latest scientific american and guess what kind of gear shall be around. (And most of it had been anticipated by Smith, Vogt, and Heinlein long ago ... ) Whatever anyone can do doesn't really pay.

Creative use of strategy will allow you to build in great plot twists, which are understated and unexpected. Yet they have large impact as the story develops.


Similar to SaberWriter, I warn you not to let research become a barrier to writing. While a convincing military setting is necessary, it's the story events and the characters in that setting that ultimately make it worth reading. If you make a great story, and get the audience to invest in the characters, adding more accurate details or jargon is work you can do later.

Consider Steven Pressfield's post on research.

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