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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Shadow Ops: Control Ops
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier

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 “coming up Latent," developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it…

In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin," becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he's ever known.

In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.

When Scylla's inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil…

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: Breach Zone is 384 pages long divided over twenty-one numbered and titled chapters, with ten interludes and an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Jan “Harlequin” Thorsson, Swift, Sarah Downer, Alan Bookbinder and Oscar Britton. There is also a glossary about the terms, acronyms and slang utilized in the story. Breach Zone is the concluding volume of the first trilogy in the Shadow Ops series and brings a solid conclusion to the story began in Control Point.

January 28, 2014 marks the North American Paperback and e-book publication of Shadow Ops: Breach Zone via ACE books while it was also released in the UK on the same date by Headline books. Michael Komarck provides the US book cover art again and Larry Rostant continues his turn with the UK cover art.

ANALYSIS: Breach Zone is the concluding volume in the first trilogy by Myke Cole, it is a book that most readers (including me) have been itching to read since we reached the end page of Fortress Frontier. Myke Cole had previously mentioned that this book was inspired by “The Heroes” by Joe Abercrombie and it would be all about a single drawn out battle. Unlike “The Heroes” wherein the battle was in a nondescript place, the battle in this book would be possibly in one of the most famous cities of the world. With this book, Myke brings it all down to the various conflicts that have been brewing in the past two books on a personal and professional level. There’s also the big draw of this book revealing the origins of Scylla and how she came to be the person that she is.

The book has a dual storyline that takes place in the present and six years ago when the limbic dispenser system is being formulated. Scylla is a normal non-latent person who goes by the name of Grace M. She meets Jan Thorsson who is a newbie back then and very much believes in a black/white world. In the current timeline, we find that Thorsson is a different person; Scylla is thought of to be non-human in the kindest terms. We find that Bookbinder is finding life (both family and military) to be quite difficult after his heroics in the Source and the FOB. He finds that he’s considered a pariah within the military because of his non-classifiable skills and finds himself with a permanent shadow. We are also shown different sides to Swift and Sarah Downer than what we have seen previously. Lastly we also get to see Oscar, Theresa and a couple of others.

I've enjoyed Myke’s knack of having different protagonists for each book, this always made each read that much more fresh. While I didn't overtly enjoy Oscar’s waffling style of leadership, Alan Bookbinder with his quiet, measured approach was a revelation. In this book however the protagonist torch is passed on to Jan “Harlequin” Thorsson who has acted and seemed like a complete douche until now (atleast from Oscar’s and Swift’s view). I was never a fan of his but it was exciting to see how his and Scylla’s past were linked together. To be honest though, while the author excels at showing a man who’s tortured by his past decisions and actions and now does his best to convert the feelings of those who have been wronged by him. I still couldn't quite sympathize with him entirely infact I found myself intrigued much more by Scylla and her past. In the end, it didn't matter much as the plot twists as well as all the action sequences kept the story moving forward strongly and kept me riveted as well.

The story while being a dual one, feels very tight and while one does have an idea of what happens in the past, finding out exactly what is still fun. The characterization as with the past books is a positive feature and herein with a battle situation, it allows the readers to get an immersive experience of sorts. Of course the author limits the number of POVs but we still get an extensive look at the happenings from various sides. One thing I would have enjoyed is to see things from Scylla’s side as well as more about the events happening in Mescalero but that’s a small thing. Also the action sequences are more than amped up for this titular battle, what I liked in Fortress Frontier was how the author showcased the hero's journey (literally & figuratively). With this book, the author showcases his deft skills in extraordinary  action sequences in the air, water, and Terra firma. I think that this book, if it were to be converted to celluloid, would make an excellent film or TV series.

Lastly in regards to the negatives, the conclusion of the story isn't a complete one as even though we get a thorough resolution to the battle of NYC. There are further events set into motion which as a reader I would like to know more about. Also I believe the author will be writing a sort of sequel book wherein he will explore the story through the eyes of another character, set in the same time frame. I’ll be interested to see how that story unfolds and what it adds to this storyline.

CONCLUSION: Breach Zone brings to a close a story that has been in Myke’s imagination for many years, as a fan, it’s heartening to see a trilogy resolution done in a reasonable amount of time. As with his previous books, Breach Zone is filled to the flanks with action, intrigue and simply all-out mayhem. For all the fans of the previous books, this third volume is a book that you simply shouldn't miss.


Paul Weimer said...

I think that this book, if it were to be converted to celluloid, would make an excellent film or TV series.

I'd watch the hell out of that. Why can't we have nice things?

Anonymous said...

The book isn't just the cap of a trilogy, but a good read in its own right and a fine reason to follow Myke Cole's work as he continues:

The Reader said...

@ Paul

I think producers and studios need to pay attention to our ramblings ;)


Victoria Van Vlear said...

It's great to see a trilogy end well. So many start off well and end badly. Thanks for the review!

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