Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shadow Ops - Myke Cole


About the book

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.


400 pages (paperback)
Published on: January 31, 2012
Published by: Ace
Author’s webpage
                             
This book was sent as an ARC by the author.

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Control Point is an incredibly talked about book, and it hasn’t even been released yet. It’s the kind of urban fantasy that isn’t found on shelves nearly often enough and because of that it’s attracting a lot of much deserved attention. Control Point isn’t about tattooed women who fall hopelessly in love with vampires while investigating a crime. It’s about inner and outer conflict as well as duty and these deeper themes are nothing short of captivating.

Control Point is heavily steeped in military tactics. Usually books that center heavily on military themes don’t appeal much to me. Control Point is different, and the reason why is because of the author himself. There is something quite surreal and captivating about reading a book written by someone who has first hand experience with his main themes and thus, understands them on a deeper, more intimate level. It’s obvious that Cole isn’t writing this from a well-researched perspective. He lived it, and that brings a level of realism to the happenings that couldn’t be achieved by mere research alone.

Perhaps it’s this realism that makes so many scenes in the book pop. For instance, the book opens with an altercation that takes place in a high school. While this may seem like familiar territory, Cole twists it into something uniquely his, and it’s almost haunting due to the “what ifs” that readers will inevitably mull over. That’s something that can be felt throughout the book. Control Point takes place in a world of “what ifs.” What if humanity did evolve enough to gain special abilities? How would the government deal with it? How would people react to it? The opening scene is haunting because the reader is almost slapped in the face with all of these questions while they wrangle with the idea of the military falling upon teenagers who have special abilities.

Then, Cole ups the ante when the protagonist, military man Oscar Britton discovers he has a forbidden ability of his own. Britton is forced to reevaluate his place in the military. Events transpire, and Britton ends up in the Shadow Ops, which takes him somewhere else entirely. This is where the book gets really interesting, as readers are exposed to something beyond urban fantasy and enter into a realm something else entirely while the protagonist battles with others against another, more looming threat.

Oscar Britton is a fascinating protagonist to follow through the book. He suffers from an inner struggle regarding orders from a government he believes in and his own moral code. In this sense he’s utterly human, and gives the average reader fascinating insight into the personal struggles many individuals in military bodies across the world probably face in silence at some point in their career. Further, Cole fills his book with strong supporting characters that offer unique insights into the life of various military personnel.

While the characters were fascinating, this is also where my only real complaint with the book lies. I never felt incredibly attached to any of the characters. While their thoughts and the events they take part in are fascinating, there is a wedge between the reader and the protagonist that was never quite pushed aside. Control Point focuses so much on action and activity that the few attempts there are to give background regarding Britton, or show that he’s a man outside of the military as well as in it, are overwhelmed by everything else that happens. Further, some of his reactions to some of the events that take place are almost nonexistent. For example, when something traumatic happens to his father, the author makes a point to say that Britton is shocked and upset, and while this event does serve as a catalyst for other events, I never really feel it. Then the plot moves along so quickly that the event seems to be almost swept under the rug before I felt that Britton had any chance to deal with it in a way that the average human would. Situations like this really caused a divide between the characters and myself.

The plot really is filled with nonstop, quick moving, edge-of-your-seat action. However, I found the subtler, personal struggles more interesting than the in-your-face action. Don’t get me wrong, that was incredibly well done, and it’s where Cole’s personal experience with the armed forces really shines through. However, the struggle of Britton to discover where his personal duty toward a government he believes in but questions ends, and where that leaves him as an honorable man is really where the book shines and that’s the stuff many readers may overlook in favor of the more in-your-face military tactics. It’s the deeper layers of the book that really act as the centerpiece about which all other events turn and these are the layers that readers will have to dig for, and many will miss.

It’s the fact that many may overlook these deeper questions and struggles for personal meaning that makes the book so successful. Control Point works on multiple levels. Readers looking for a fast paced, action oriented book will love it for those aspects of it, without being overwhelmed with the deeper stuff. Readers who enjoy something deeper and a little more personal will love the personal struggle of Britton while he tries to reorient himself and his moral code to a world gone mad, unpredictable and absolutely gray.

I usually read an author’s first book in a pretty forgiving manner. A first book is usually the least polished of all of an author's books. There are more mistakes and hiccups, but not here. Barring the one complaint I listed above, Control Point reads like a book written by a man who has already written and published ten books. It’s fast paced and action packed, but also deep and riveting, filled with the personal struggles of a man forced into a situation which makes him question his life and the career which gave him so much purpose. This is a book that will attract a lot of attention and deservedly so. Myke Cole is an author to watch and Control Point is an incredibly strong start to an amazingly promising career.

4/5 stars

4 comments:

  1. Thanks, Sarah.

    The book is indeed being talked about all over, and I'm extremely curious about the book. I liked the sample Myke posted, and want to read it more...

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  2. Sounds like this is a book I'd enjoy. Have put it on my "to buy" list.

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  3. I need to read this. Justin had good things to say about it and now so do you.

    This is a must-read for me.

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  4. I'm so happy you reviewed this. I was a little worried, Military SF doesn't tend to do much for me either, but it looks like there are many more elements to the book than just "military action". I think I'll give it a try!

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