The first book in Steven Konkoly’s Ryan Decker series, The Rescue, was fantastic. It was about weighty topics, was exciting, and did a great job of being both informative and fun to read. Like the books in Konkoly’s other series about California, Fractured State and Rogue State, it is an awesome book that I really enjoyed reading.
The second book in the Ryan Decker series, The Raid, is almost as good, albeit is suffers from one minor flaw.
The good aspects of The Raid are much the same as Konkoly’s other books. The plot is exciting, fast-paced, and about important issues. The characters are realistic. The dialogue seems real and is at times funny and at times serious. The motivations of the characters make sense and would be understandable in the real world.
Furthermore, there are additions to The Raid that make it better, in some ways, than The Rescue. There’s a love interest between Decker and another major character in the series that adds to the realism of the novel and further complicates Decker’s emotions. The fact that Konkoly does a good job of introducing and writing that love interest, far better, for example, than Halstead does in The Saudi-Iranian War, makes it all the better. Also, the roster of characters is similar to the roster of The Rescue, helping the reader keep track of who is who, but the motivations of the characters shift from what they were in the first book in the series, making The Raid all the more interesting and exciting.
Additionally, it should be said that the plot is almost as good as Konkoly’s other books. Based around the drug war, private military contractors, corruption in D.C., and the militarization of the border, the conspiracy unraveled by Decker in The Raid is highly complex and fascinating to consider.
However, there is one weakness to The Raid; it’s a bit like The Empire Strikes Back. By that I don’t mean that there are stormtroopers, an ice world, or a frog-creature living on a swamp planet. Rather, I mean that the strength of one of the major players can be explained, but still doesn’t make much sense after its stunning defeat in the first story in the series.
More specifically, it doesn’t make much sense in The Empire Strikes Back that the Empire is still so powerful after losing millions of men and huge amounts of material when the Death Star is blown up. Similarly, the antagonist of The Raid suffers a major, stunning defeat in The Rescue, yet is still rich, powerful, and a major player in The Raid.
Yes, that can be explained in both cases. But, frankly, I think it’s a bit of a stretch, especially in The Raid.
In any case, that’s a relatively minor flaw. It broke the immersion level of the novel for me somewhat, but wasn’t a major issue. Additionally, as the ending of the book resolves the issue entirely, I know it’s something I won’t have to worry about in future novels in the series.
And, more importantly, the plot of The Raid is otherwise terrific. How Konkoly describes the PMCs, the level of secrecy and detail the characters have to go to because of the realistic constraints imposed by LEOs and the US military, and the corruption we all think of when we hear about The Swamp make The Raid a wonderful, fun to read novel.
Even better, the addition of drug cartels to the plotline adds a level of excitement and a level of personal connection to The Raid that might not be in The Rescue for most readers; few of us have experience with the Russian mob or PMCs, but most of us have heard about the terrifying cartels in Mexico. The fact that the cartels in the novel behave realistically, acting just like the real-life ones described in Narconomics or El Narco, adds realism to the book and makes it about a real-life issue that we all know about. I think that is a very positive addition to the novel.
Despite the one minor flaw, I highly recommend you read The Raid. It’s fun to read and I certainly enjoyed reading it.