Review: Shadow Ops: Control Point
Huh. Have this ever happened to you? You finish a book, and after you turned that last page you thought, “Huh. Not sure what I think about that.”
Believe it or not, this doesn’t happen to me very often. Usually I know right away if I love, like, or hate a book. I know if a book is mediocre once I read the final page. I know if it has cemented itself on my “Best of the Year” list. With Myke Cole‘s debut novel, SHADOW OPS: CONTROL POINT (Amazon)… I just don’t know. Hopefully I come to a decision by the end of the review, otherwise this will get awkward.
SHADOW OPS puts the reader in the shoes of Oscar Britton. He’s a military man in a world right in the thick of things going crazy. People are developing powers, and most of the time they have no idea how to control those powers. Things go quickly out of control, and those individuals often do terrible things. This is put on display in the opening scene, where a couple of teens with new powers are taking out all of their confused aggression on their High School.
It’s a riveting scene. The confusion of feeling the main character has feels absolutely perfect. It sets up a style of writing that I was ready and willing devour. Britton then, obviously, develops powers of his own and becomes the hunted… for a few pages. Most of the story takes place with Britton working as a military contractor and learning how to use his power.
The world itself is well done. The reactions of the government aren’t surprising in the least. His reactions as a government contractor are on par with what I see in that business every day. It’s realistic. The magical world/realm/area (The Source) is pretty slick. It’s a war-zone, and it feels like it was written by a guy who has experienced this sort of thing.
Sounds great right? I totally agree. But then I started having issues with things.
The main character, Britton. Teenage girls flip-flop less than his character, including the teenage girl in his unit. I understand that a soldier can feel conflicted. I’ve seen that with many of the soldiers I know personally. But being conflicted and having doubts doesn’t necessarily mean that you are bi-polar with your reactions to EVERYTHING. The lack of consistency in Britton was one of the things that bothered me most about this book. To me, this wasn’t a nit-pick. This was a major issue. He would do stupid, stupid things that weren’t in character unless he had multiple personalities.
Many of the side characters would do the same thing. One minute I’m nodding my head thinking, “Right on, Myke. Your characters are learning and progressing. Awesome.” Then the next minute the “magic reset button” has been pushed, and they are back to square one.
My biggest issue was with the ending. A betrayal is totally not foreshadowed. Oh sure, I can see where the author was trying to be all, “Hey there is more to this person than meets the eye.” But that wasn’t foreshadowing the betrayal. It was almost comical when the traitor is revealed. I kept imagining a Saturday morning cartoon villain rubbing his hands together while saying, “Mwahahahahahha! You never saw it coming! Mwahahaha!” It bugged me. And I can’t help but think there was some ability-cheating at the end too. And in the end, the villains just seemed… impotent.
Now, I feel a little bad about all the negative. It super, super bothered me. So, you probably wonder why I kept reading. Other than the fact that I am a professional, and I always read a novel from start to finish, yeah, there were some things that were just excellent.
Again, the world is awesome. The introduction of powers is awesome. The government trying to regulate their use was perfect. The powers themselves are awesome and fairly familiar. The goblins are great. The real kicker for me was the action. It was fabulous. Chaotic. Violent. There were little “missions” that Britton’s team goes on that are fantastic.
This is a debut novel that feels like a debut novel. There are major issues, but there are enough good things that kept me interested. I think some more feedback could make Cole’s next novel pretty good. The real question is, do I think Myke Cole can fix the problems? Yeah, I think so. I think taking a very close look at character motivations and making sure they are consistent would have automatically fixed a lot of my problems with book 1. He’s also surrounded by a good group of authors who can/should be able to help him avoid this mistakes in the next volume.
So, last question: will I read the sequel?
If you are a fan of Military Thrillers, Urban Fantasy and Larry Correia-like novels, you will likely enjoy Myke Cole's debut, SHADOW OPS: CONTROL POINT.
Without a doubt. No hesitation. I’ll buy it happily (or beg Ace for the ARC). There is a huge amount of potential here. The more I think about CONTROL POINT: SHADOW OPS, and as I write this review, the more firmly the book lands at my line of “Mediocre” and “Like”, falling on the “Like” side of that line.
If you are a fan of Military Thrillers, Urban Fantasy and Larry Correia-like novels, you will likely enjoy Myke Cole’s debut.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: It's full of swearing military people in high-stress situations. Yup, lots of swearing.
- Violence: Tons, and well described
- Sex: None
Series links: Shadow Ops
Note: Go to Cole’s website: http://mykecole.com/. That background art is EXACTLY what makes me like the theme and feel of the novel. Pure, freaking awesome.
Thanks to “koshr” for pointing out a few typos in the review. Many times, I get very little time to review these before posting, so thanks!
I read this review and as a HUGE Larry Correia fan, I was excited. But I stopped reading halfway through Control Point last night, something I NEVER do. You were spot on as to the problems with the writing – the main character might as well have multiple personality disorder. I get that the author was trying to show that the guy is struggling with right and wrong, but my head was spinning. I know teenaged girls who have fewer mood swings than this grown man. And as a military officer who rose up the ranks all the way to Captain, how could he throw off all his military indoctrination so quickly and start acting like a total bonehead so fast?? Had he been some wet behind the ears recruit or young enlisted guy or even a young 2LT, it would have been more believable. As an officer, even if he was struggling, that part of him should have figured into his decision making more strongly than it did. You don't just shake that off, but Britton “apparently” did. (At least as far as I read…)
The set up for Britton to meet the lady in the pillbox was also poorly contrived and screamingly obvious. I told myself two chapters before it happened exactly how it was going to happen, and I was right. That was pretty much the last straw for me.
The premise was really great and the set up intriguing, but I just cannot care anymore about this character – if he were a friend of mine, I would slap the crap out of him and go “DUDE! MAKE UP YOUR MIND!!” Just when I think he has figured out what direction to take, BAM! Some totally out of the blue random action that is 180 degrees from his direction even half a page before, and completely without reason. The author should have had the story arc planned out in greater detail before he started writing to allow the character to come to grips with his struggles in a coherent fashion. It's almost like he was making it up as he went along, like he allowed his “stream of consciousness” to write the book for him straight from beginning to end, and then he published it without re-reading what he wrote. Shame on his editors for not helping him work through this. As much as I wanted to like this book, and I really did (Dead Six by Correia and Kupari is one of my all-time favorite books), it is just not worth my time.
* Yes, I am a chick who likes military fiction. My two best guy friends are retired Marine Corps. I got them both hooked on Larry Correia and it is fun to have someone to discuss his books with. I had told them about Control Point but have rescinded my recommendation because I did not want them to think my taste in books had gone south.