Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
Review by Ryan Lawler
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.
Synopsis sourced from the authors website (http://mykecole.com/products-bibliography)
What happens when you take a bunch of ordinary people, give them super powers, and then take them to a parallel dimension for training under the supervision of the U.S. military? You get Shadow Ops: Control Point, an action packed military fantasy from a military officer named Myke Cole which has fast become one of my favourite new books and a possible contender for 2012 book of the year. I know it’s very early on in the piece to be making such bold statements but Control Point is a fantastic book and if this is the standard for 2012, then we are going to be in for one hell of a year.
Control Point tells the story of Oscar Britton, a Lieutenant and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army who is attached to the Supernatural Operations Corps for the purpose of bring rogue sorcerers under control. When Britton himself manifests a prohibited school of magic called portamancy, magic that allows him to teleport between dimensions, he runs, only to be captured by the SOC and given the option of lethal injection or becoming a magical force multiplier on a leash. What ensues is the true story of Control Point – learning to control immense power, learning to control the emotions that govern your thought processes, learning to control the situation, and learning to take back control of your own life. This is very much a coming of age story applied to an adult in his 20′s who is coming to terms with a new identity and new magical powers after losing everything. You cheer for every success and wince at every mistake, only the winces are amplified because Britton is an adult,should have already come of age, and should not be making these mistakes. The plot is intriguing, full of wonder, mystery, and inevitable betrayal, and while not all the threads are resolved, you can leave the book feeling satisfied that the coming of age story has finished its arc and feeling excited about the future direction of this series.
While the plotting is very good, what really enables this story to work is the thorough world building that has been implemented by Cole. In a world where anyone at random can manifest with any range of powerful abilities, the United States have taken it upon themselves to impose strict regulations that govern the use of magic around the globe, enforced by their own army of sorcerers. You can draw parallels between this a number of different political issues throughout history which I think adds a healthy dose of realism to this book without making too much of a political statement. Religion believes magical manifestation is an abomination, nations around the globe fear the U.S. magical super power, tensions are high everywhere you look. Cole has also crafted a parallel world called The Source, populated it with a wide range of magical creatures, and used it to locate an operating base for the training of sorcerers away from the public eye. Each chapter contains passages and excerpts from fictional books, newspaper articles and interviews that help to flesh out the world and promote a bunch of different conspiracy theories that may or may not be true (my favourite being that Jesus had actually manifested as a healer and was not the son of god…). The attention to detail is impressive and while the world building is exemplary, Cole does a great job at making sure it doesn’t steal the show from the overall story.
Control Point is not perfect, and it is in the characterisation where you start to see a few flaws creep into the story. Oscar Britton for example is a well constructed character, a very powerful man whose personal flaws keep him from being an infallible wrecking machine. The problem I had with him was his personality, his reasoning behind the choices he makes, and that I couldn’t sympathise with him or his plight for almost a quarter of the book. In the end I came to identify with his determination to fight against that a**hole Fitzy, and he definitely becomes a lot more likeable once he starts to accept his new place in the world. The support cast were much better from the start (especially Marty the Goblin, he’s a champ) and they seemed to easily grow on me through their shared adversities. But they are all very troubled characters with a great deal of baggage, leading to a lot of angst ridden dialogue and interactions between each other which at times could be very frustrating.
The writing here is top notch, especially notable as Cole managed to pack this story full of military jargon without letting it become overbearing or confusing. The way he presented his action scenes allowed me to build a vivid image in my head of what was happening without bogging me down in overly descriptive language, allowing him to keep the story moving at a very fast pace. The dialogue was a bit wooden at times but that tends to be a feature of the military and a habit that can be hard to break. Other than that, the writing is very impressive for a debut novel.
As a military officer myself, I feel like I can really relate with Cole and the book he has written. It is a book that accurately portrays military life on a military base, while enhancing it using the fantasy elements I love to read about. Whether you are a military buff or not, this is an entertaining book packed full of intense action sequences – a modern interpretation of the fantasy genre that you should have no hesitations in reading.
Krishna from Seshadri
It wasn't that great a book. I mean the action scenes where pretty epic for sure and for the most part, without them I would have dropped this book within the first 50 pages. The magic system is excellent and it is indeed a crossover between x-men and black hawk down. I would have definitively given this a 10 if it were not for at least 4 instances where I just couldn't understand what Britton was doing and why he was doing it. I mean it was just not something I would expect from the main character being a military man. Nevertheless, it's a good read and I will definitively be reading his sequel.
David from Zuid-Oost Beemster
I couldn't agree more with the reviewer. Simply awesome. Cole combines his first hand military experience with a mingle of Iraq & Avatar (the 3D-movie) and old-school goblins and wolfs and a reasonable magic system. Next to that, this story is something fresh. The main character is not some kind of massive viking cliched hero. But a slightly more brave than useal, Afro-American soldier who's having the biggest trouble ajusting to things he does not morally agree to. In all a totaly likeable character and an amazing story. I can't wait for February next year.
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