Saturday, March 15, 2014
Book Review- Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
Back in January, I featured several reviews by author Scott Sigler in preparation for the release of his book, Pandemic. Well, I failed to bring to your attention that about that same time, another awesome author was releasing the third book of his trilogy. I'm talking about the amazing Myke Cole, author of the Shadow Ops series. I could have spent February featuring the reviews for books one and two of the series, but I thought I'd wait until I had read the new book so I could post all three reviews at once.
Now is that time.
For these last three weekends in March, I will be posting my reviews for the three books of the Shadow Ops trilogy by Myke Cole. For today, I give you:
Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
Oscar Britton, army pilot, has just come up Latent, magical power manifesting in him without warning. And worse, his abilities are from a prohibited school of magic. But as luck would have it, he won't be immediately put to death, so long as he puts his newfound abilities to use as a government contractor. Suddenly thrust onto the front of a war he didn't know we were fighting, Oscar needs to learn to control his magic.
But does he agree that the government is using him for the right reasons?
That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from mykecole.com
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.
Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.
Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.
The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.
This is yet another book that is set in the now and is completely believable. With all the mention of conspiracies and government secrets, who could be surprised if it turns out the military is employing sorcerers to do dirty work in both the real world and a parallel magical dimension we can't easily get to? Who really knows what the government and military are up to? Lord knows if magic did just start popping up in the population, it would be regulated to the extreme very quickly. Cole has hit on some serious paydirt in subject matter here, and he milks it for all it's worth. Well done!
As someone with no military background (I did do a semester of JROTC in high school though; that's got to count for something) and whose real military knowledge comes from the media and one trip to a Marine base with a friend, I have to say Cole portrays the military atmosphere and lifestyle in a way that the layman can easily understand. Things felt real enough with all the abbreviations, but not so overly complicated that I couldn't follow what was going on. There's a certain sort of fluency the reader gets when immersed in the story here, easily integrating terms like carbine and SOC and being drawn into the world. Well done there.
From the get-go, the characters are highly believable and completely human. It's almost terrifying how well Cole does this. If I didn't know better, I would think he knew Oscar Britton, our main character, because the man is so completely real it's difficult to think of him as just a novel protagonist. And it's not just him. Every character you come across, from the converted zealot Downer to the Goblin Marty (I'm not going to lie, he's my favorite character) are 100% believable. Yes, even the non-human Goblins are easy to believe in.
My only real complaint with style here would be the inconsistency with chapter length. For the story itself, it makes sense, but (reading this on my kindle), one of the first things I do when I start a new chapter is look at the "minutes left in chapter" heading so I know if I'll have time to get through it on my coffee break or whatever. Some chapters from the onset had a 10 or 11-minute time at my reading speed. No problem. But there were a couple chapters (the first one included) that had a 28-30-minute reading time. Personally, I would have liked a little more evenness in chapter length, because those outliers were a little hard to get through in one sitting (just because most of my reading time is during coffee breaks or when I'm not onstage in play rehearsal). It's just personal preference, but I would have preferred the chapters to match that shorter length. Fortunately, the longer chapters did have scene breaks, though they were not consistent, so it could be hard to find a good stopping point. These were usually the action chapters, and you don't want to put the book down, so it is sort of a double-edged sword. I don't really know how to address that sort of issue. Separating the chapters would have paused the action in a bad way, but the lengths could get a little daunting.
Overall, HOLY COW was this a good book! I've never seen anything like this before. Military fantasy. Cole has a winning genre niche here, and he pulls it off with the experience and creativity only an insane military man could. It's obvious he's writing what he knows and that he's really put a lot of thought, study, and research into how he puts out the work.
The only issue I have with the story itself is that I was constantly looking for the antagonist. Britton obviously has issues with how his life turns after he comes up Latent, and there are a few characters that he clashes with, but I never really saw any true personalization of what he was fighting against. To be honest, I didn't really notice I was feeling that lack until about halfway or so through the novel, but once I noticed it, I got a sense of wandering up until that point and continued to feel that lost sensation until the climax of the book. True, much of the conflict here was internal for Britton himself, and in real life (which this is of course imitating) there really aren't clear bad guys, so to speak, but it still left me with a feeling of being imbalanced. I did eventually project that need for an antagonist onto one of the characters, Fitzy, but that left me unsatisfied. Don't get me wrong, the resolution of the clashing between Britton and Fitzy was great, but I still miss having someone I can paint a solid target on. Hopefully, I will get a little more footing on that when I read the next book in the series, Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier. I am very much looking forward to continuing the story here despite any dissatisfaction. No matter what, this is a great read and is well worth the time.
Would I Recommend This Book? Highly. This was an action-packed, intelligent, exciting read that blends military action with fantasy so well that I wanted desperately for it to be real just because it was cool. And it doesn't hurt that it's well written. I give a Manifested 4.5 of 5 stars. I do want to say that this book was damn near perfect, but I am very stingy with the full-on 5's. There was at least one typo in the ebook version, and just that little bit about me not really being able to identify a true personification of an antagonist kept it from being a 5. But darn close!
For more information on the author, visit mykecole.com