Walk up and down the aisle of your local bookstore’s science fiction/fantasy section. Most likely, if you see any military fiction, it’s of a science fiction bent. Instead, Myke Cole (@mykecole) decided to mix military and magic in his debut novel, Shadow Ops: Control Point. The result is a fun, quickly-paced, and engaging book that is the beginning of what should be a very interesting series.
Control Point begins with Army officer Oscar Britton working with the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps (SOC) to stop a magical Columbine. In this world, when people discover they have magical powers, they can either turn themselves in and work with the military, or they can run. These “Selfers” will be killed. Should those people manifest in a prohibited school of magic, they are considered “Probes,” and they will be killed. And shortly after his latest mission, Britton learns he’s a Probe. And he runs.
Very quickly Britton learns why his magic (Portamancy–the ability to open gates between locations) is prohibited. He’s out of control and dangerous to family members and strangers alike. It’s not long before he’s captured But that’s only the beginning of Britton’s story. With a bomb implanted in his chest in case he should ever run again, Britton becomes a military contractor, joining a secret unit that live and trains at a base in the Source (where all magic comes from).
Britton works with a handful other Probes, mastering his magical powers. He soon realizes that he is more powerful than he imagined, but he is completely under the control of the military. Britton wants to use his magic for good, but he also wants to be free. Will he support the SOC? Or will he turn on his military masters once they have taught him the full potential of his powers?
Cole has a military background, and he has served in Iraq as a contractor. Cole uses military jargon fluently, although this can create some confusion for civilian readers such as myself (but there is a handy glossary in the back of the book). Cole is also a big fan of D&D (you can see him DM’ing a game among authors here). And it’s where he combines the magical and the mundane that his world building really shines.
In the world of Control Point, there are regulations and red tape that surround the use of magic. Britton’s base uses indigent workers, many of whom are suspected by military personnel of working as spotters during the nightly raids on the base. But instead of local Afghanis and Iraqis, Cole uses goblins. And when you get to read about Apache helicopters taking on a giant Roc, well, you’re in for a treat.
But you should also know that amidst all the action, there is a sense of unease throughout Control Point. Systems are being built to incorporate magic into the world, but the systems are imperfect. Harsh choices need to be made. No one is quite comfortable with the advent of magic, even those with magical powers. While reading Control Point, I was originally upset at watching Britton’s emotions whipsaw back and forth, from positive to negative. But I eventually realized that this was simply Britton’s unease and his struggle to find his way in this new world.
Although I also think some of the female characters are a touch cliche, I really enjoyed Control Point. I think you will be surprised and entertained by the little touches Cole uses to flesh out the world of Control Point. I think it will be the start of a very fun series. I look forward to the next volume some time in 2013.