Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review: Shadow Ops books 1-3 By Myke Cole

I first heard about this series at Balticon 47 (last year) when Myke Cole was presented as the Compton Crook award winner. The premise of this series is that magic is real, and has sprung suddenly upon the modern world. It still isn’t common, but when even 1 in 10,000 develop magical talents, and there are 8+ Billion people on Earth… That’s a lot of people turning up with amazing powers!

The cover of the books describes the series as “Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men meets” and that’s pretty accurate. When the US government realizes the terrifying position it's in, they basically draft anyone who turns up with magical talents… so long as they turn themselves in. Of course this isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction, the Native Americans on the reservations in the west turned their sorcerers against the US government, and declared themselves free, with the help of some summoned allies. Thus far they've been highly successful keeping that newly won freedom.

Control Point (Book 1) focuses on Lt. Oscar Britton, an army officer attached to the military's Supernatural Operations Corps tasked with hunting down those who run, under the command of the airomancer Harlequin. Things go quickly sideways when Oscar manifests one of the forbidden powers… and runs. He fights his own unit, meets up with other runners, and ends up releasing the witch Scylla.

Fortress Frontier (Book 2) introduces Colonel Alan Bookbinder, an army bureaucrat who also manifests, is drafted into the SOC, and finds himself unexpectedly in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier… the US military’s outpost in The Source, the world inhabited by blue skinned goblins, giant monsters, and shadow demons, where magic is even stronger. This book also gives us the first glimpse of how other nations are dealing with magic.

Breach Zone (Book 3) Brings Oscar, Booksbinder, and Harlequin together to face an invasion of New York City from the Source commanded by the witch Scylla.There are some flashbacks in Breach Zone which fills in some of what happened before book 1, when magic was really new.

Myke Cole manages to take a situation like that of the X-Men, and examine it from a perspective that isn’t really seen in fantasy fiction, that of the modern military. In the X-Men, the response to the rise of mutants isn’t to try to force them into the military, but to control them with drugs. There’s a parallel to that in Myke’s books with a briefly mentioned program at NIH (which I would love to read more about), but most sorcerers are drafted, even those who run.

The writing is action packed, and delves deeply into the ramifications of the sudden appearance of magic in the modern world. Everything hooked me, and made me want to delve deeper into the setting, which made it extremely difficult to put the books down. Even more than that, it made me want to play a superhero game for basically the first time ever!

I'll be posting up the interview I did with Myke at Balticon early next week. 

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