How Can Fictional Stories Help People Deal With Real-Life Struggles Sequel to A Failed State Brings the Cost of War Closer to Home

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Sequel to A Failed State Brings the Cost of War Closer to Home

Relapse: The Cost of War is the sequel to Andrew E. Coussens’ military war novel A Failed State. In that novel, readers met Damien Collins, a member of an elite intelligence-gathering team determined to stop the spread of ISIS, and they followed his adventures in Afghanistan, including what happened when his mission went wrong.

When Relapse opens, Damien is back in the United States dealing with his pending divorce and a protection order against him that keeps him from seeing his daughter. Meanwhile, his comrade and buddy, known as “Loki,” is in an Afghani prison as the result of their botched mission. Damien has plenty to worry about, including frequent bouts of anxiety that cause him to seek the help of a psychiatrist. He also is back to work, training in the US for his next mission.

Written in third person, the novel alternates between scenes with Damien and Loki’s experiences in prison. Loki’s wife and child are, of course, worried about him, so after intervention by the US government, it is a relief to them when Loki is finally released and able to return home. However, Loki’s problems don’t end there. He is dealing with his own bouts of PTSD. Given that his family lives in a remote area, one would think there would be little to trigger his PTSD, but he finds himself frustrated with his wife, and matters only get worse when he finds his neighbor dead and realizes a Mexican drug cartel has moved into his backyard.

Because of the bond Loki and Damien share, when Loki realizes he needs help, Damien comes to his aid and they practice a little vigilante justice against the people who threaten Loki’s home. However, the biggest threat to both of them may be the demons inside of them as they seek to adjust to civilian life at home. Those demons may ultimately destroy their friendship.

Coussens writes without any frills, telling a hardcore yet sensitive story about real-life characters based on the military personnel who fight for this country every day. Coussens’ personal military experiences influence the story as evident from the military terms used, and they add a heightened level of realism to the novel, both in the action scenes, and through the portrayal of the characters’ emotions. These are men struggling to hold it all together in a world that is not always fair to its military heroes. The depictions of their marital relationships is especially well done and will cause readers to empathize with both Damien and Loki.

At the same time, there is plenty of plot and Coussens does a masterly job of alternating the scenes between the main characters while also bringing in scenes with terrorist characters so we can understand their backgrounds and motives. The pacing is strong, causing the novel to move quickly until the reader reaches the last page and is sad the book is over. Fortunately, we are left with a bit of a cliffhanger-a sure sign that a third book is planned.

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