|Shadow Ops: Control Point|
The tongues of blazing fire,
The ice storm’s savage trill,
The gale and steadfast mountain,
All serve our nation’s will.
—Excerpt from Chapter 22
Shadow Ops, #1 by Myke Cole
Imagine the world we live in now. Cruel, harsh, completely unforgiving, filled with opposition where even the most basic of peoples are able to arm themselves and cause complete and unrelenting panic—this is the 21rst century of the planet Earth. However—imagine an event occurring on an almost-cataclysmic scale, in which people all over the world suddenly begin to Manifest strange, frightening, and downright-destructive powers.
If you’re having a hard time imagining that, look no further than Myke Cole’s debut novel, Control Point.
We enter the world of the now magic-filled 21rst century during a terrorist attack. Oscar Britton, a member of the armed forces and our protagonist, is tasked, along with his team, to take down a pair of Selfers—individuals who have illegally turned away from the government after Manifesting their magical powers—who are attacking a school. What appears at a glance to be a simple takedown mission quickly turns deadly when, upon arriving, the two Selfers begin to wreak havoc upon the military. Several are killed, many brutally injured, and when one of the Selfers is killed in cold blood after being subdued by none other than our hero, our story shifts in focus to reveal the dynamic of the world and how, in this magical society, even those who surrender after committing horrible crimes are given no mercy.
Upon arriving back at the military operating base and camping out with one of his injured squad mates in the infirmary, things seem to be perfectly fine. His squad is safe, Britton himself is in decent health, and nothing seems to be going wrong. That is, until the unthinkable happens to Oscar Britton—Manifestation.
Control Point by Myke Cole is described by the front-cover blurb as ‘X-Men meets Black Hawk Down.’ To say that is a fairly accurate representation of the novel in itself would be to underestimate the power of the blurb. Throughout the book, Control Point never fails to let down its reader. Written at a breakneck pace, it begins with an action sequence and then falls into a short lull—where, shortly thereafter, hell breaks loose. It is at this early point in the novel that Myke Cole quickly shows his power for writing exciting action sequences. There is no gradual buildup in the beginning, no time to really get familiarized with the idea that there is magic and just what it can do. Instead, we’re thrust headfirst into it. In that regard, Control Point becomes exciting extremely quickly, and as a military thriller it most definitely does its job of delivering the goods to the reader.
I should, however, mention something before I go any further. Control Point is a military fantasy novel. What does that mean? For the most part, it means that there’s magic—several different branches of basic and forbidden magic—but it also means that there’s overly-fantastical elements to it. It does resemble X-Men, in a way (what with the powers the individuals are able to use,) but that is the simplest notion of fantasy that is defined within the novel. Without giving too much away, there comes a point in the booka wild alternate universe (similar in the vein of Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia or the Wonderland in the film Pan’s Labryinth, ) comes into play, and this world isn’t treated like the world we live in. Instead, it’s wild, it’s lush, and it’s teeming with the fantastic. While that in itself did not bother me as a fantasy reader, I can understand how it could dissuade certain readers of military action and science fiction from reading this novel, as in introducing this element Myke Cole immediately created what many readers would consider a ‘medieval fantasy’ world. The fantasy element isn’t detrimental, though, and as a reader I feel it only added to the further mystique of the novel, especially the world wherein the magic existed.
Another thing I found extremely refreshing about the novel was that our main character, Oscar Britton, is not your stereotypical army man. While incredibly faithful to his country, the spiral of events that come from not only the actions of the chain in command, but also Oscar’s own experiences and eventual Manifestation gradually lead him to down a path that could be considered anything but morally-proper. Throughout the novel we get to see him evolve as a character. From his triumphs to his failures, from his conquests to his defeats, we witness the transformation of a man whom, at the start of the novel, has total faith in the system, and who, through experience through Manifestation and the actions the military force him to do, learns that not everything is as perfect as everyone around him is trying to make it out to be. I’d be the last to say that Oscar Britton is a perfect character, and at even early points in the novel I begged to question his reasoning for certain things. This also comes into effect near the novel’s ending climax—where, after situations boil to a near breaking point, a situation forces Oscar to do something that could easily lose him favor with the people reading his story.
As far as the writing, the story, the narrative, action and world-building go, I found absolutely nothing wrong with this novel. I really have nothing negative to say about it, which is something considering that I don’t normally read what I would consider to be a ‘perfect book.’ Throughout Control Point, I was so entertained that I wasn’t able to tear myself away. Considering I almost missed a few appointments because of it, I’d say that’s a good thing.
Control Point by Myke Cole is intense. Unrelenting, exciting, filled with a magic system that would make any fantasy author envious and written with an experienced militaristic background that only serves to add a harrowing depth and unnerving realism to its narrative, Control Point is a powerful first novel that solidifies Myke Cole’s entry into the world of not only military sci-fi fiction, but also action fantasy fiction. You’ll find it impossible to stop turning the pages and beg for more once you’re done.
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Reviewer’s Notation: I received Control Point by Myke Cole for review courtesy of Ace Fantasy/Science Fiction (Penguin Group)