The Second Korean War by Ted Halstead: Is it Any Good?
I recently decided to start reading more novels. While I typically read non-fiction, I’ve found that mixing it up and reading a novel or thriller helps me relax a bit more and spice up what I’m reading. Once I tore through the Vince Flynn books I brought with me to school, I turned to my Kindle and downloaded The Second Korean War by Ted Halstead, a novel about what the 2nd war between North and South Korea might look like, how such a war might start, and if China would get involved.
The storyline of the novel is reasonably good. While some of the details in it might not hold up to strict scrutiny, especially the idea of a nuclear “backpack” bomb being stolen, the story generally makes sense and moves along at a steady pace that makes the book exciting but not exhausting.
Additionally, what makes the story “pop,” in my opinion, is the general idea of the book. Although we constantly hear about the potential of a war with North Korea, we rarely consider what such a war might look like. On that note, the diplomatic relationship between North Korea and China as is portrayed in The Second Korean War is particularly interesting. I won’t give anything away, but the diplomacy-related chapters of The Second Korean War are some of its best sections because Halstead’s perception of how they might go and how China perceives its ability to defeat America in a war is quite novel.
However, while the storyline is reasonably strong, not everything about The Second Korean War is as good; it has a number of particularly evident weaknesses.
One such weakness is how Halstead does chapters. All of them are almost unreasonably short, generally just a page or two, and, despite that brevity, switch between the perspectives of multiple characters. That means that, in the average chapter, each character is only involved for a few paragraphs, which makes it very choppy and forces the reader to switch back and forth between a bewildering array of characters.
That leads into my second criticism of The Second Korean War, which is that there are far too many characters. Instead of having three or four main characters, which would be a large number but not an unreasonably large one, Halstead has over a dozen. There are American diplomats, American soldiers, an American detective, an American president, a Chinese diplomat, a North Korean diplomat, two Russian investigators, two more Russian cops, a South Korean spy, and about half a dozen Koreans. I think the two main Russians- a detective and an FSB agent- are supposed to be the main characters, but it’s hard to tell because each of those aforementioned characters receives a seemingly similar amount of time on page.
That’s just too many characters. Perhaps it could be justified if most of them were supporting characters, but they’re all described like main characters. If the supporting characters were added in, the list of who is involved would read like an Old Testament genealogy. I appreciated Halstead’s devotion to making the story seem believable by presenting it from so many perspectives, but he went a bit overboard and the vast number of characters detracts from the book. Because so many perspectives are presented in so many short glimpses, it’s hard to remember exactly who each person is and how they contribute to moving the plot along.
None of that is to say The Second Korean War is a bad or unenjoyable book. It’s not; I had a good time reading it and found the ideas in it, especially about how the North Koreans might try to win and entice China into joining, thought-provoking. Overall, it’s a reasonably good book.
But its weaknesses aren’t unnoticeable. There are over 150 chapters and each one contains a few perspectives despite not being particularly long. In my opinion, he should have condensed and conglomerated those chapters to make the book a bit less choppy.
So, what’s my final verdict? Read The Second Korean War if you’re okay with looking past a few flaws and want to read a fun novel about modern warfare. It’s certainly not perfect, but it is reasonably enjoyable to read. Plus, I’ll be reading the next one in the series soon.
By: Gen Z Conservative