Can anyone recall a short story in which a new invention is developed which makes nuclear war (possibly all war) impossible?

At first everyone is delighted until the central character points out(to the President?) that conflict will continue in other forms – plots and assassinations and gives him a book to guide him in the new normal.

He last sentence names the book. It is “The works of Niccolo Machiavelli, the master of treachery and deceit.”


1 Answer 1


This sounds rather like "Cease Fire", a short story by Frank Herbert first published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1958.

A slight difference with the question, is that this story deals not with nuclear war, but with conventional war waged with explosives. A soldier named Hulser realises that the enemy has developed technology that can be used to remotely detonate explosives, making them useless in this form of warfare. As described in the wikipedia article though:

In the final scene they explain that although war with explosives is no longer possible, war will continue with even worse weapons, such as chemical poisons and disease agents. They [the military command] give Hulser a copy of a book, saying that he and his children will need it. It is a copy of the unexpurgated works of "the master of treachery and deceit", Niccolò Machiavelli.

  • That'll be it. Thanks.
    – Mike Stone
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 8:57

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