My Thoughts on The Saudi-Iranian War by Ted Halstead
I recently read and reviewed The Second Korean War by Ted Halstead and, although it wasn’t perfect, liked it well enough to read the 2nd book in the series, The Saudi-Iranian War. Like the first book in the series, the events of which immediately precede it in the in-novel timeline, it’s an action-packed, techno-military novel set in the near future.
Without giving anything away, the basic premise of the book is that Iran is somewhat controlled by a charismatic and tyrannical leader, head of the nation’s “Council of Experts.” That man, a shadowy and plotting ayatollah, uses his contacts in the Revolutionary Guard and Iran’s nuclear program to stage a series of nuclear attacks on Saudi Arabia that are followed up by separate, yet powerful, armored drives meant to strike at the heart of the nation, Riyadh.
While there are many other characters involved, including an Iranian defector, a Saudi prince, and a Qatari prince, the main characters are an FSB agent and a Russian detective, Grishkov. The plot, although a bit predictable, is reasonably good and certainly makes the book enjoyable to read.
Furthermore, The Saudi-Iranian War is excellent in that the author, Ted Halstead, obviously understands the complexities of modern warfare. His depictions of the relative advantages of US-made weapons, Russian platforms, and European tanks and fighter aircraft is interesting and shows the various benefits and drawbacks in all of those weapons platforms in a way that few other books do.
Instead of having an obvious bias to any one nation’s equipment in particular, as most authors do, Halstead is able to honestly aprise the reader of the truth about each weapon. His depictions of US Abrams M1A2 tanks and German Leopard II tanks are particularly interesting and show that US equipment might not be as superior as we have been led to believe.
Additionally, like Vince Flynn in Protect and Defend, Halstead does a commendable job of showing the limits of Iranian power and the convoluted inner workings of that barbaric theocracy. Halstead’s knowledge of the region, the systems of government within each nation, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the various interests of the US, Russia, and the regional players is self-evident within The Saudi-Iranian War and makes the book quite believable, especially when viewed in the context of those struggles and politics as is found in books like Exercise of Power.
One other positive attribute of The Saudi-Iranian War is that most of the problems I identified in The Second Korean War were fixed. While there is still a somewhat large cast of characters, there aren’t so many that it is distracting, the chapters are longer and more fleshed out and don’t flip between perspectives as frequently, and I had a much easier time keeping track of who each character is and what their goals are.
A final strength of the novel is Halstead’s writing style. His dark and dry sense of humor, especially about US failures in the region during the war against jihad and the many long-term reverberations of the great war for civilization, along with the vanity and luxurious desires of Saudi princes, brings some life to the novel and helps occasionally let off the building pressure in the book.
However, there are a few weaknesses with The Saudi-Iranian War.
One issue is editing; there are a number of grammatical errors, a few seemingly misplaced words, and even a few typos and misspelled words. We all make mistakes; I know I make grammatical mistakes quite frequently and need to work on improving my writing in that regard. However, in a published novel, typos are inexcusable. A thorough read-through would have allowed Halstead or his editor to spot those mistakes very easily and correcting them would have made the book seem far more professional.
The other issue is that a few aspects of the plot didn’t seem well explained.
For example, Russia’s interests in the region are hinted at and (very) briefly remarked upon by an FSB character, but why it would side, even covertly, with Saudi Arabia, a US ally, rather than Iran, which buys Russian military hardware and sides with it in the Syrian Civil War, is not explained in the depth that it needed to be.
Additionally, why the US would remain as uninvolved as it does when armored spearheads are attacking one of its most important allies in the region is left unexplained other than a few casual remarks about Iranian air-defense systems. Those problematic aspects of the plot should have been fleshed out in more depth. Had they been, the plot would have been even more believable and the book much stronger.
Other than those small issues, however, The Saudi-Iranian War is quite good. The plot, despite its weaknesses, is reasonably strong and believable and the writing is mostly good, even if there are a few errors. The issues are overshadowed to a large degree by the many strengths of the book.
So, should you read The Saudi-Iranian War? I’d say that it’s probably worth a read. Halstead obviously improved as a writer after the first book in the series and it is far stronger and more enjoyable of a read as a result. Even better, especially for the type of person usually interested in military combat-centric novels, the military technology aspects of the book are incredibly well done, especially the scenes involving tank and air combat, even if they lack some of the finer details found in Tom Clancy’s novels. If you want to read a fun military thriller, The Saudi-Iranian War is undoubtedly a good option.
By: Gen Z Conservative