JAIS, The David Rivers Series, Book 1. Paperback ISBN 978-0-9983813-1-2, a thriller in e-book by Jason Kasper.
Protagonist David Rivers entered the army immediately after graduating from High School, served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was accepted to West Point. Just before graduating he was informed that because of an unusual heart condition, he would graduate but could not be commissioned. He was foster home raised, is single, has no family, only one friend who shares the highs of base jumping, has a now worthless degree and has lost not only his one love ( who was being bedded by his one-time best friend during his long absences) but a more recent one as well who refuses to accept his negativistic attitude and leaves. He becomes involved with a group of former Special Forces individuals working for a wealthy “handler” for whom they perform clandestine, often mass, killings for a price. As the “boss” informs him “If your enemies don’t kill you in this business, your employer might. And if you follow this path any further, you’ll ultimately have to leave the country. And it’s a hard dangerous road to even earn that.” The tale unfolds as David settles into their routine of successful missions until the ‘boss’ again speaks confidentially with him before what is supposedly their final mission before ‘retiring’. He says he has a strong feeling he will not survive this time and wants David to know: “The worst enemy those guys (their cohorts) will ever face is a man with a gun. Ours is our own mind, and you can’t kill that unless you do it for good. Other than that, the only difference between you and me is about twenty years of experience and your alcohol tolerance….You’re an arrogant little cock*******, but so was I. You’re a quick study, and the guys are giving you s*** while they can. If this business is around for you to stay in, you’d be giving the orders someday. So be careful when you decide what you’re going to do after our last job. Because this—he held out his arms, his beer bottle in one hand, his exhausted eyes leveling with mine— is what the view looks like.” Apropos the ‘boss’s feelings’ the last mission has catastrophic elements and the basics for the next book in the series are nicely set in place.
This is the author’s first book, well written, and only could be written by one who has personally experienced combat. It verbalizes extremely well the mental patterns of thought so often experienced and which end in a situation which science has deigned to designate simply as PTSD. It is a pattern that leads to David’s high level of alcohol tolerance and his need to gain highs produced by dangerous tasks, all interspersed with intermittent thoughts of suicide. He expresses the needed feeling of elation: “But racing through that building and shooting at armed men in a desperate plea to make it to the roof—it was a waking dream, a life-altering event that made use of all my f***ed-up experiences. I didn’t care how bad my body hurt today. I didn’t care that the girl was left alive. And, throughout the planning and execution of that mission, I certainly didn’t care about Sarah or Laila or anyone else. I didn’t care about the Army, either—four wasted years at West Point, five counting the prep school, and I wasn’t good enough to serve in combat again? Now, I had done something far more dangerous than I ever had in war, something that command would never have approved in the first place. And if it had happened, they would have been pinning medals on my chest.”
Conclusion: JAIS is a book with faults. There is some lightness of characterization and a somewhat loosely woven plot. The graphic depiction of torture, repetitive killings, blood and guts is plentiful and disconcerting for some. However, the presentation of a mind endlessly tortured as a result of repeated trauma and the resulting needs created is engrossingly presented in a high octane action thriller. But a caveat and recommendation also should be provided – not only is it captivating for the action aficionado, but even though the book can be depressing it also provides a look inside the troubled minds of combat veterans that would be well worth anyone’s time to read, especially when so few understand.
4* 5* Outstanding thriller-plus, as described; -1* for few presentation hiccups.