I 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.