Book Review: “Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier” by Myke Cole

Fortress FrontierWhen I finished reading Shadow Ops: Control Point I was entirely hooked on the world Myke Cole has created for his books. I had a hard time believing that he was going to be able to top the amazing work he had done when I picked up Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier to see what happened next to my favorite military sorcerers. Well, I was wrong, because I promptly read the entirety of Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier in about six hours. It seems that the idea of a military fantasy novel is right in my wheelhouse. I love these books.

Alan Bookbinder is the new viewpoint character featured in Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier to go along with a few appearances by Oscar Britton to keep the story cohesive along the way. However, the very first part of this book had me a little bit confused because Bookbinder arrives at FOB Frontier to be the new logistics whiz after coming up latent himself with a magical power nobody has any clue about and when he arrives he is introduced to Oscar Britton. I had to go back to my copy of Shadow Ops: Control Point to confirm that Britton had in fact ended the book not at FOB Frontier. After a few more chapters it became clear to me that Bookbinder’s viewpoint was jumping into the story at about the halfway point of Shadow Ops: Control Point and then running in tandem for a little while and extending the story to a new point by the time it was finished. Once I managed to get the timeline right I was fine, but a little more clarification at the beginning might be helpful to readers.

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier deals with FOB Frontier being cut off from the Home Plane as a result of Britton’s actions as he and several members of the SASS escape from the base and begin forging their own path. When Britton kills the SOC’s only Portamancer in his escape, it leaves FOB Frontier with no way of getting ammunition, food, support, or anything else from the Home Plane. They are on their own with limited resources. To top everything off, Bookbinder, who has been barely holding on to his sanity while trying to deal with the commander of the base, is suddenly thrust into command by the assassination of Commander Taylor by rogue goblins. Bookbinder has to take action and take it fast in order to prevent the base from plunging into chaos.

While Bookbinder is dealing with the survival of FOB Frontier, Britton is trying to find a safe haven for himself and the small group of sorcerers that escaped the base with him. They first try to fix the problem they created by letting Scylla out of her imprisonment, but they are beaten back rather handily and realize they don’t have the skills and/or power to deal with her on their own. Their next plan is to escape back to the Home Plane and take refuge with one of the larger Selfer groups and try to work at overturning some of the discriminatory laws against Selfers. At first it seems like their plan is going well, but then they realize the leader of the Houston Street Selfers has been replaced by an SOC agent.

Alan Bookbinder turns out to be the more compelling character for me in Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier. I still like Oscar Britton, and will continue to do so, but for all the strengths that Britton had in the first book, Bookbinder is even more well-written from characterization standpoint. Bookbinder’s unique magic leads to some very interesting choices he needs to make for the survival of his group. I liked that he has to make those choices and that he has to be careful about who he lets know about his power. At one point it even threatens to undo all of the work he’s done in helping FOB Frontier survive.

The conclusion of Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier has Bookbinder, Britton, and even Harlequin coming together to do the right thing and throwing the President of the United States into some seriously hot water. The setup for the third book is amazing and I can’t imagine what Myke Cole is going to do next with the series. These books are absolutely a must read for any fan of military fiction or fantasy.

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As It Turns Out, My Wife Wrote a Book

Every year in November there is an event known as National Novel Writing Month, or more commonly “NaNoWriMo” for short. The entire point of the event is to spend the month of November writing 50,000 words towards a brand new novel you’ve never worked on before. Anyone is welcome to participate in NaNoWriMo and a lot of really good books have come out of authors giving it a try. As a matter of fact, I’ve reviewed several books here on 20four12 that were originally written as NaNoWriMo projects.

As it happens, last year my wife decided to give NaNoWriMo another try for the first time in several years. When we first married we tried it once or twice as something to do together, but each time we fell by the wayside as school and work got in the way. This time though, she had a decent idea rolling around in her head and off we went to try again at the whole writing thing.

On my wide of things I only made it to 3,916 words before some very large projects hit my desk at the office and my time and attention was needed elsewhere. My wife however, managed to make it all the way to 15,443 words before the end of November rolled around. Granted, that’s not the entire 50,000 word goal for the event, but it was enough that she had a great start and over the next two or three months she kept going and wound up with a finished product she was ready to pass around to some folks for opinions and edits. Soon enough she had things ready to go and be formatted for use on a Kindle and loaded up into the Kindle Direct Publishing system on Amazon.

Not many people get to say they wrote a book from start to finish, but my wife is one of those people now. As an English major she knows her way around a sentence and she’s done a lot of other writing over the course of her life. Finishing a complete novel is something she’d always wanted to do and now she can cross that off the bucket list.

I certainly haven’t written a book despite how many of them I’ve read. Maybe that’s something I’ll be able to cross off my own bucket list at some point in the future.

Here are the pertinent details of my wife’s endeavor:

Autocorrect StaysTitle: Autocorrect Stays
Length: 157 pages
Available: Amazon

Cover Blurb: A high-strung writer named Nat Howell and a relaxed soul singer named Pat Cavanaugh meet at a child’s birthday party; the unlikely pair begin to expand each other’s horizons. Pat is intrigued by Nat’s quirky humor. And Nat is immersed in the warm company of Pat. A writer’s challenge is issued: they will write something and have it judged by a jury of their peers. The winner gets glory and a dinner date, although not necessarily with each other. Each goes on an unfamiliar path to churn out creative material. Who will be the victor and will the prize change with time?

Book Review: “The Trilisk Revolution” by Michael McCloskey

The Trilisk RevolutionI’ve had a really good time reading the first four books of the Parker Interstellar Travels series by Michael McCloskey. However, The Trilisk Revolution sort of fell apart at the seams for me. I understood what the author was trying to do with the book, especially with bringing all of the characters back home to Earth. It was inevitable that they had to return at some point and it might as well be because the Trilisks have managed to infiltrate the entire upper power structure of the ruling government.

The hardest thing for me to deal with in The Trilisk Revolution was how all of the characters are now officially duplicates of themselves using the Trilisk columns that Shiny has set up and I felt like that really took a lot of the gravity away from the situation. It felt a little like there was no cost for the group of them at this point because they were not really putting themselves at risk. There needs to be an appropriate amount of risk for me to believe that characters have something to lose.

I did enjoy how the crew of the Clacker, especially Telisa, had a plan to take down all of the Trilisk infiltrators in one fell swoop with a coordinated, well-timed attack across the entire planet in order to prevent any Trilisks from escaping. The book did still tell a decent enough story, but at just under 200 pages, it felt like the story was rushed and incomplete. None of the books in this series have been particularly long, but this one really would have benefited from another 75 pages or so of extra content.

Of more import than anything during the course of the book was how Shiny so suddenly turns his back on his human friends. Granted, I’m not sure he ever considered them his actual friends, and I was fairly certain that he was going to betray them at some point, but I wasn’t sure it would be so quickly after the end of the fourth book. I did hear from the author after writing my review of The Trilisk Hunt and discovered that The Trilisk Revolution is not actually the end of the series, but that it will be continuing with another book sometime in the next few months. That makes me happy because I don’t want my last experience with what has been a fun series to be a bit of a letdown.

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Book Review: “Shadow Ops: Control Point” by Myke Cole

Control PointI need to make a confession. I first heard about Myke Cole as a result of Twitter because another author I follow had linked to a particularly poignant blog post Myke had recently written about something I don’t remember at the moment. That was the first exposure I had to Myke Cole and I made a mental note that he was a writer as well and maybe I should look up his books and see if I might be interested. Then, some measure of time later, I started seeing my Twitter feed flooded with “Go read Myke Cole’s new book!” So, I went and looked up his first book and bought a copy, not thinking much of it other than, “I’ll get to this at some point because I have lots of stuff on my Kindle right now.” Besides, I felt confident the book couldn’t be too bad because all of my favorite authors I followed on Twitter were hyping the hell out of this Myke Cole guy and I trusted their judgment.

Many months later I was looking through my available options on my Kindle thinking, “I’ve been reading a lot of big fantasy stuff lately, let’s change it up and find a shorter military science fiction book to read next.” I found Shadow Ops: Control Point on the list and opened it up, ready to dive into spaceships and military squads, commanders and orders, and some good old-fashioned laser beams.

Guess what, did you know that Shadow Ops: Control Point is not military science fiction?

Rather, Shadow Ops: Control Point is military fantasy and I sure found that out in a hurry.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know such a sub-genre even existed!

I put the book down after reading the first few chapters (which I was in love with by the way) and wondered how in the world I had managed to think this book was military science fiction. Turns out, when you just buy a book on the recommendation of your favorite authors because they’ve been all over Twitter about the thing, and you never read the cover blurb, and only see the guy in military fatigues on the cover, you can put all sorts of silly ideas into your own head.

So, if Myke Cole ever doubts the power of the Twitterverse… he shouldn’t.

Myke Cole demonstrates at least two things with Shadow Ops: Control Point. First, he has written a leading character that readers can really, really connect with in ways that I don’t see very often in a lot of science fiction and fantasy books. Second, Myke Cole’s command of pacing in a story is some of the best I’ve ever seen. There are no “good” moments to put this book down. Just when you think you’ve arrived at a good place to stop and go make dinner, the last line of the chapter will force you to turn the page and keep going. I was a very busy guy at the time I was reading Shadow Ops: Control Point and I might have let a few things at work slide a little bit because I wanted to keep reading instead of coding.

Oscar Britton has been serving as a member of the Supernatural Operations Corps, helping to track down any citizens who manifested as having magical powers. Well, he was until he manifests his own unique abilities and finds himself on the run as a result. Ultimately Oscar is thrown in with a band of misfits so-to-speak as he is trained to use his unique skills in sorcery alongside several others who have manifested in ways that are rare or dangerous. Oscar and his new squad have an uphill battle to fight as they are frowned upon by the more common air, fire, and water sorcerers in their training camp. Trials have a tendency to create strong bonds between people though, and soon enough Oscar and his squad are doing some magnificent things.

Shadow Ops: Control Point features some really expertly woven themes of loyalty, duty, honor, and sacrifice. Oscar is required to make some tough choices about who he wants to be as a person as well as who he wants to be as a leader and friend. He struggles with those choices like a real person who had been thrown into seismic changes would and that’s a big reason he is so easy to relate to as a character.

The magic system Myke Cole has envisioned for this book is grounded in a few familiar tropes of earth, water, air, and fire forces, but he mixes in a few lesson common ideas like necromancy, the ability to manifest portals (teleportation), and a few others. I really enjoyed the battles between magic users as they always seemed to play well off of each other and the characters were allowed to grow into their powers over the course of the book rather than being experts right from the beginning.

I really did have no idea that “military fantasy” was an actual sub-genre, and even though I read Shadow Ops: Control Point months ago, I still haven’t found any other true examples of that kind of writing. It seems that Myke Cole is working in a relatively new and unique writing space, which compels me to keep reading his work in the future.

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An Update on the 100 Books Read Goal

A week or two ago I wrote a post that discussed whether or not I would actually manage to read 100 books this year. I laid down several statistics, a few arguments for and against my accomplishing the goal, and provided a list of the 28 books I had “planned” to read and get me to the finish line. I also mentioned that October was basically going to be the “make or break” month regarding my progress. I need to reach about 85 or 86 books read by the time November 1st rolls around because I have a full November and I promise I won’t have time to play catch up in December.

So, here is that list of 28 books I planned to read with the ones I’ve read so far crossed out as a way to show my progress:

  1. Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole
  2. The Dresden Files: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
  3. The Dresden Files: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
  4. The Dresden Files: Death Masks by Jim Butcher
  5. The Dresden Files: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
  6. The Dresden Files: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
  7. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  8. The Trilisk Hunt by Michael McCloskey
  9. The Trilisk Revolution by Michael McCloskey
  10. Insidious by Michael McCloskey
  11. Industrious by Michael McCloskey
  12. Ingenious by Michael McCloskey
  13. Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos
  14. Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos
  15. His Fair Assassin: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
  16. Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno
  17. iD by Madeline Ashby
  18. vN by Madeline Ashby
  19. Dragon Wing: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  20. Elven Star: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  21. Fire Sea: The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  22. Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.
  23. Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.
  24. The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
  25. Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  26. Dragons of Spring Dawning by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  27. The End is Nigh (Anthology) edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey
  28. Autocorrect Stays by Holly Flanagan

As you can see, I’ve managed to cross 10 books off the list, leaving me with 18 remaining. I stand at 82 books completed as I write this post and hope to have at least 85 complete in the next nine days. I’ll be tackling the two Romulus Buckle books and then hope to have enough time left in the month to enjoy Ancillary Sword without having to rush.

It’s been a long month of reading for me in October, completing one book every 36 hours on average for the most part. That’s a very strange zone to be in I’ve discovered. However, if I get to that magic number of 85 books finished I’ll upgrade myself to an 80% chance of reaching my goal as planned.