Written by: Myke Cole
Published by: Ace
If there’s one thing I love in the world more than anything else, it’s literature that plays with genre conventions. So when I read about Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops: Control Point, I rushed over to Amazon and clicked the the button to send it to my Kindle.
You see, Shadow Ops is a fantasy novel. Kind of. Mostly. The main characters in the novel are magic users, sorcerers, but they aren’t in Narnia or Middle Earth. They’re right here in the good ole U.S. of A. Other books have done this, too– Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files is probably the closest comparison I can draw–but Cole’s Shadow Ops takes this genre mash-up to the next level. If Battlestar Galactica is a military drama that just happens to be set in space, then Shadow Ops is a military drama where the soldiers just happen to have magic instead of M-16s.
The novel starts strong and stays strong. Unlike most high-concept novels, this novel drops you right in on the action. There isn’t a lot of exposition because readers should already be familiar with the two major tenets of the narrative: the military and high-fantasy-style magic. We know how orders and squads work, even if it’s just from watching TV, and we know how magic works because, well, it’s magic.
So with that bit of housekeeping out of the way, Cole dumps readers right into the middle of it and never lets go. Shadow Ops is consistent in tone, and it all flows very well. The author really knew what he was doing when he put this one together. It’s obvious he knew what he wanted out of the book, and he didn’t have to spend a few novels like the aforementioned Dresden Files figuring out the tone or exactly where to go with this cool idea he had.
The nicknames. Oh, my goodness, the nicknames. I see what Cole was going for with them. He’s working on many different levels here, merging military call signs, literary metaphor/symbolism, and X-Men-style superhero badassery. Unfortunately, they’re hokey and take me directly out of the world of the novel.
When I see a character named Scylla, I don’t expect to get a warm fuzzy. If your name is Salamander, I expect you do burn people to death and be kind of weaselly about it. The same goes for Wavesign–guess what his power is?
If you ask me, which you didn’t, using the characters names would be fine, because they’re used anyway. As it stands, the action scenes feel more hokey than they should because it switches from names to call signs. I understand why, like I said, but I don’t think it works.
When the novel starts, you’re following a character into a raid. A raucous action scene or two later, and the perspective shifts. That’s when you realize that you’ve been had: the book isn’t about who you thought it was about! You were tricked! You were had!
Wait, no, you actually kind of like this guy. He’s more sympathetic than the first one. A bit simple/single-minded, but sympathetic. The thing is, though, I never *really* like him. I like other characters; I like the story being told, and I like the action that’s moving everything forward. But I’m just not a big fan of the main character. He’s fine, but he’s no Harry Dresden.
Overall Rating: A
As a debut novel, Shadow Ops: Control Point is phenomenal. There are a few weak points, sure, but that’s why it’s a series. If you’re a fan of fantasy, military action, or some strange (read: awesome) mish-mash of them both, you probably can’t go wrong with this one.
Reviewed by B.J. Keeton
Shadow Ops :Control Point
Military Science Fiction
January 31, 2012
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.
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B.J. Keeton is a writer, blogger, and teacher. When he isn’t trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting *Firefly* back on the air, he writes science fiction, watches an obscene amount of genre television, and is always on the lookout for new ways to integrate pop culture into the classroom. He lives in a small town in Tennessee with his wife and a neighborhood of stray cats.
B.J. is the co-author of *Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel* (available at Amazon.com & other major ebook distributors). *Nimbus* is a serial novel, and Part One can be read (for free!) at his blog, ProfessorBeej.com. His upcoming novel *Birthright* is the first in a trilogy titled *The Technomage Archive * and is slated for release in November 2012.