My Thoughts on Ted Halstead’s The End of America’s War in Afghanistan:
One reason I enjoy reading through a series of novels is that, by reading through them in quick succession, the improvement of the author over time can become apparent. For some authors, such as Vince Flynn, that’s not really the case. His first book, Term Limits is just as exciting and well-written as Act of Treason, one of his later novels. But, with most fiction authors, it is.
Ted Halstead’s “Russian Agents” series is a great example. His first book, The Second Korean War, was good but not great; while exciting and fun to read, it had numerous flaws. I recently finished his third book, The End of America’s War in Afghanistan, and I am happy to report that it is much better.
The basic plot of The End of America’s War in Afghanistan is this: a Taliban leader, seeking to throw the US out of his homeland forever, uses deep-cover agents and Taliban fighters in Pakistan to steal and repurpose a number of missiles. The usual characters from the “Russian Agents” series are informed of the plot and sent to help the Americans stop it.
Yes, the plot of The End of America’s War in Afghanistan is a bit cheesy and I wish Halstead would focus the plots of his novels on something other than nuclear weapons. However, as far as spy-novel plots go, it’s a reasonably realistic one. Russia does have an interest in Russia not turning into an irradiated nuclear battleground. The Taliban would like to use a nuke on the US. And Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would probably be the easiest in the world to steal.
As is usual for his novels, Halstead spends a good bit of time setting up the plot and preparing the scene but, once it starts, the action is near-continuous and is quite exciting. The action is also reasonably realistic; while there are a few high-tech gadgets used that might or might not be real, all of it is rooted in what would likely happen if such an event were to take place around now and the way each group fights is rooted in real tactics and weapons used by the Russians, Americans, and Taliban.
Additionally, the way he handles the characters in The End of America’s War in Afghanistan is far better than in the first book in the series. Unlike it, there is just the right number of characters to provide multiple perspectives on what happens. But, on the other hand, there are not so many that it’s confusing.
Finally, The End of America’s War in Afghanistan is reasonably good in that it’s not too long. Halstead sets up the action, has a few good battles and number of tricks up each group’s sleeve, and then ends the action in dramatic fashion. It’s a full enough story to remain interesting, but not so long that it gets tiring or boring.
The one weakness of The End of America’s War in Afghanistan is Halstead’s attempt to write a bit of romance into it. I wouldn’t have minded had it been well done. But, frankly, it’s not. The romance between two of the characters comes out of nowhere and isn’t particularly believable, nor does it add to the book. It’s just a not very well done distraction.
Despite that unnecessary addition, The End of America’s War in Afghanistan is reasonably good. The plot is well done, the action held my attention, and I found it to be generally enjoyable to read. Plus, reading it in conjunction with Halstead’s other books is fun because his writing visibly improves between them. If you want a fun spy novel to read, check it out. You’ll likely enjoy reading it.