I’ve recently been working my way through Konkoly’s Ryan Decker series. First up was The Rescue, where Decker had to defeat a shadowy PMC company and the Russian Bradva to prove his innocence and stay alive. Up next was The Raid, in which Decker finished off the evil PMCs from the first novel and continues to build his company’s relationship with an influential US Senator. Most recently I read The Mountain, the third book in the series, which is just as exciting and fun to read as the first two while also corrected the main problem I had with The Raid.
The basic plot of The Mountain is this; a young adult working at a marijuana farm in the backwoods of California goes missing. His parents, ashamed of his life path but still wanting to help their son, call in a favor with Senator Steele, a close friend from college. Steele calls Decker, who goes to investigate. Chaos, fighting, and subterfuge ensue. There are massive gunbattles, VC-like booby traps, tantalizingly realistic car chase scenes, and surprising tactics that give the heroes an unexpected advantage (which brings back one of the best parts of the first book).
What adds to all that is that the story generally makes sense. While there are a few small things here or there, the entire story makes sense when you remember that the bad guys are mercenaries.
Without giving too much away, it’s important to remember that the villains of The Mountain, mercenaries working for The Institute, are just that- mercenaries. They’re not brave infantrymen, guardians of the republic. Nor are they contractors embedded with military forces or CIA assets overseas. No. They’re mercs, working for a check.
With that in mind, the amoral, drug-centric nature of the plot makes sense. What would seem to most people like an overly risky, nonsensical venture would be a perfectly sensible one for a greedy, adrenaline hound mercenary.
Additionally, the plot of The Mountain is better than The Raid because the capabilities of the organization that Decker and his crew are fighting against are reasonable. While impressive, they’re more or less in line with what equipment, tactics, and specialized gear a shadowy, well-funded PMC organization would be able to bring to bear, even if operating in the continental US. While book 2 is a bit unrealistic in that regard, The Mountain isn’t. It’s terrifying, but certainly within the realm of possibility.
Finally, what’s great about The Mountain, like all of Konkoly’s books, is that it hits on real issues. While human trafficking, a central aspect of the first two books in the series, is more or less left out, the other major aspect of the Ryan Decker series- the terrifying power of mercenary outfits in the modern world- is still there and becomes even more prominent.
The fact is, many PMC companies employ well-trained, highly motivated troops that would be able to fight and win against most light infantry units, even in the Western world. While they might lack the heavy equipment necessary for mechanized warfare, their talents make them excellent light infantry fighters. While they’re on our side, fighting alongside our troops, that’s a good thing; they’re effective and low-cost compared to shipping around large Army units. But, what if they end up fighting against the US or its allies? What if our cops, Rangers, or SEALs have to go head to head with Triple Canopy contractors one day?
That’s an unlikely scenario, but still one that is worth considering. Thanks to Bush’s wars in the Middle East, the PMC business grew tremendously. Those contractors fight alongside troops, guard their bases, make their meals, and make sure that their equipment runs; the military relies heavily upon them. What if they became the bad guys?
As always, Konkoly uses a compelling plot and excellent writing to introduce his readers to an important question. I highly recommend you check out The Mountain; it’s terrific.