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Monday, January 28, 2013

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author website 
Order “Shadow Ops: Fortress FrontierHERE 
Read an excerpt HERE 
Watch the Book Trailer HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Shadow Ops: Control Point

AUTHOR INFORMATION: As a security contractor, government civilian and military officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Counter-terrorism to Cyber Warfare to Federal Law Enforcement. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He’s also a graduate of the Viable Paradise writer’s workshop and is a close friend of Peter V. Brett. He also won the 2003 Writers of the future award for his story “Blood and Horses”. His passions include comics, fantasy novels and late night D&D games, which eventually set him on a path of being a wordsmith.

OFFICIAL BLURB: The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers--summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed...but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.

Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier--cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.

Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place -- Oscar Britton, public enemy number one...

CLASSIFICATION: The Shadow Ops series is a multi volume urban fantasy series, which combines the super-powered human aspect showcased in X-men comics along with the military themes espoused in stories by Glen Cook. Stirring the pot with his own style, the author has created a unique series for the readers.

FORMAT/INFO: Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier is 368 pages long divided over twenty-eight numbered and titled chapters separated into two titled sections. Narration is in the third person via Oscar Britton, Alan Bookbinder and Jan “Harlequin” Thorsson. There is also a glossary about the terms, acronyms and slang utilized in the story. Fortress Frontier is the second novel of the Shadow Ops series and carries forward the story began in Control Point.

January 29, 2013 marks the North American Paperback and e-book publication of Shadow Ops: Control Point via ACE books while it is being released in the UK on January 31, 2103 by Headline books. Michael Komarck provides the US book cover art again and Larry Rostant continues his turn with the UK cover art.


ANALYSIS: Myke Cole’s Control Point was # 5 on my top ten-debut list for last year and amid the slew of fantastic debut releases, it is credit to the author’s vision and skills that the book gained that position. The potential shown in Control Point marked him out as an author to watch for and so it was with high anticipation that I awaited to read the sequel. Also I must disclose at this point that I have a soft spot for this book as Myke graciously allowed me to be a part of its creation by allowing me to provide some help in regards to a few facets of the Hindu mythology and Indian elements integrated within the story and Shadow Ops world.

The book begins during the latter third of the events shown in Control Point as Myke Cole introduces a “Nikki-Paulo” like situation in the story but with significantly better success than the creators of LOST ever imagined. This book has a new POV character and it explores latency through a different set of eyes. This time around we get to experience the latency turn through colonel Alan Bookbinder who is a “paper-pusher and not a true soldier” in his own worlds. Thus begins the first contrasting point between Oscar Britton and Alan Bookbinder and this is just the first of many that the readers will come across as they read through the story. Alan is a simple man who faces rather extraordinary circumstances and is forced to adept to them.

The emergence of his powers means that he goes to the same Forward Operating Base wherein Oscar and the rest of the latent community are sent. He however gets an exalted status because of his previous military position and his own initiative in reporting and turning himself in. His coming out is as explosive as was that of Oscar however his life takes a different route and we get to see a different side to the characters previously introduced such as Fitzsimmons, Crucible, Taylor, Talon etc.

In this book,Bookbinder is the major POV character however we also get to know what happened to Britton and the runaways as well. This book is dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien and Gary Gygax as the author pays homage to the heroic journey trope. Both the POV characters learn to evolve beyond what they are individually capable of. But the crucial aspect is the journey and what a journey it is. This is what I really loved about the book, namely its exploration of a different magic system and nation, the Sahir Corps of India and the Nagas. Myke Cole absolutely lets fly his imagination and we get to see a trek across the magical landscape that connects the American FOB to the Indian FOB and this plot thread is the heart of the story. The author, I have to say does good by Tolkien and Gygax with his version of the heroic odyssey. Check out the map that accompanies this book to get an idea about the start and end destinations of Bookbinder’s journey.

The action is nonstop and the cast of characters is significantly expanded. We get more of Bookbinder and a relatively smaller dose of Oscar Britton, Not to say that Oscar’s fight is any less important but compared to Bookbinder, it pales slightly in scope of the task and enormous pressure. Myke Cole has to be lauded for his approach to his debut series as he brings in a new POV character and yet manages to make the transition seem seamless. His prose skills have definitely bettered this time around as the readers are exposed to a wider character cast and yet all the plot threads are comfortably ensconced within the compact book plot. There’s also the use of vignettes before the start of every chapter, which like the first book help in making the readers aware of the world and the various different aspects about it. The world which Myke hints at is incredibly complex and I feel it will remain fresh for a long time as the author can possibly explore all its nooks and crannies and keep readers entertained for a long time to come.

There’s an overall story arc, which Myke is attempting to build up and it continues wonderfully in this second book as the problems between the US government and the Selfers are coming to a violent conclusion. I believe Breach Zone will be the book where it all comes down and Myke has promised a terrific climax in New York City. Breach Zone will feature another new POV character besides Britton and Bookbinder and I believe he gives a strong hint about who that might be in this book. The next book will also feature Scylla as a major player as has been hinted at in Control Point and Fortress Frontier. She’s a character that I love to know more about and so I can’t wait to read about her and the mega confrontation Myke has planned in Breach Zone. Plus with Myke’s new revelation that the Shadow Ops series will be continued for a further three books however books four & five will be prequels focusing on the great reawakening. While book six will be featuring an ancillary character featured in Fortress Frontier, I feel that I might know whom this character might be however I‘ll wait till Myke announces it to confirm my presumption. This means that Breach Zone will at least bring an end to the story arc begun in Control Point and so I await it with high anticipation.

Talking about drawbacks, for me Fortress Frontier had next to none, some readers might still complain about the writing style and perhaps about the characters themselves but I feel Myke has outdone himself with this book and proves that he is indeed a wordsmith with a bright future ahead.  The only complaint I can think of is that we will have to wait for a year to find out what happens next and I think that's due credit to the author for making his readers feel such anticipation.

CONCLUSION: Fortress Frontier is a sequel and a better book than its predecessor, it is a book that will have something for fantasy readers of every kind and pays homage brilliantly to Tolkien's legacy. Give it a read to know why Myke Cole is an absolute gift to urban fantasy and military fantasy sub-genres. Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier is a fantastic book and IMHO is simply a must buy for all fantasy lovers when it releases tomorrow.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Britton was such an annoying protagonist in the fist book but I couldn't help but love the story. Mike can spin a great yarn so I can't help but read this one.

Mesektet said...

The US covers for these books are truly terrible. The UK covers are much better, if a tad generic.

I just bought this and the first book and I am looking forward to starting them. If I ever finish Osama that is, which has been absolutely brutal to get through.

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