Shadow Ops: Control Point is the first novel by American novelist, and former soldier, Myke Cole. With three tours in Iraq I am expecting a lot of action from his debut novel. It was actually after reading a review of Shadow Ops: Control Point by author Jim C Hines I decided I wanted to read it. Thank you Penguin for providing me with a review copy of Shadow Ops: Control Point.
Let's start with some info dumping, now this is by me, so don't hold that against Myke Cole. In Myke Cole's alternative reality people are developing magical powers. Many of these are dangerous, and even more so when used by the untrained. If you find yourself with the ability to suck the water out of someone's body, heal wounds, or throw fireballs, you are supposed to immediately turn yourself in. Those who do not are called Selfers, and are basically condemned to death. The Supernatural Operations Corps (SOC) are those responsible for bringing the Selfers to justice.
Oscar Britton is a lieutenant in the US army, and his unit is assigned to support a SOC strike force in apprehending two Selfers holed up in a school. There is tension between the two groups, the regular soldiers are nervous around their magically gifted colleagues. Oscar Britton himself is not happy about the prospect of using deadly force against two teenagers on US ground. The mission is a complete disaster, Oscar Britton loses a man in the fight, and the SOC basically saves their bacon. The only positive outcome was managing to subdue one of the Selfers without deadly force, a teenage girl. At least, until SOC executes her in front of them.
Having witnessed what happens to those who uses magic without permission, I don’t blame Oscar Britton for panicking when his powers manifests, while waiting at the bed of his injured comrade. It might even explain his decision to run.
The opening chapters was an odd experience, I was quite worried about the rest of the book. The take down of the two Selfers reads like a Advanced Dungeon and Dragons round, with each character having one minute to act while the others stand still and watch. What’s even worse is Oscar Britton, it’s impossible to understand his reasoning. He is facing two killers, who are now a threat to his team, but he still cannot bring himself to use force. I’m quite happy he is not a cold blooded killer, but this was just plain weird. Fortunately, Myke Cole does much better with the action later on in Shadow Ops: Control Point, and it feels a lot more fluid and realistic.
I'm afraid Oscar Britton is the one thing which never improves throughout the book. He keeps going from one bad decision to another, never seeming to stop and think of the consequences. Nor is it possible for him to make up his mind whether SOC are bad guys or not, swinging from one extreme opinion to another.
I do like the concept behind Shadow Ops: Control Point, it's a interesting mix of fantasy, military fiction and super heroes. Oscar Britton does have one thing going for him, and that's his magical power, Portomancy. Just by having seen a picture of a place Oscar Britton can open a portal to that place. When he gets close combat training which utilises his ability things really kick off. It all reminded me a lot of the super villain Spot, an old enemy of Spiderman, who also fought with the help of portals.
|Spot, Spider-Man villain|
Myke Cole still manages to squeeze excitement out of his confused character, there is a lot of stuff going on, new sights to see around every corner. His writing, while not lush, is lucid and straight to the point. I can easily forgive him for never quite convincing me that a bullet would do the job quicker, and easier, than most magic present in Shadow Ops: Control Point. I still found it a entertaining read, it has charm and appeal. In a way, it reminds me of Harry Potter, but with guns.
Shadow Ops: Control Point weighs in at 400 pages, and is published by Penguin (in the US).