Tag Archives: Myke Cole

Review: The Killing Light

The Killing Light by Myke Cole

Title:  The Killing Light
Author: Myke Cole
Published: 2019
ISBN-13: 978-0-76539559-3
Publisher: Tor.com Publishing
Twitter: @MykeCole
Publisher’s Blurb: Heloise and her allies are marching on the Imperial Capital. The villagers, the Kipti, and the Red Lords are united only in their loyalty to Heloise, though dissenting voices are many and they are loud.

The unstable alliance faces internal conflicts and external strife, yet they’re united in their common goal. But when the first of the devils start pouring through a rent in the veil between worlds, Heloise must strike a bargain with an unlikely ally, or doom her people to death and her world to ruin.

This is the final book of The Sacred Throne trilogy
Book 1 –  The Armored Saint | Book 2  – The Queen of Crows

I was provided an Advanced Reader’s Copy by Tor Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

“But I am thine Emperor, and the harder the step, the closer it taketh thou unto me. –Writ. Lea. IV.2.”  (p. 167)

In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner writes, “The primary subject of fiction is and always has been human emotion, values, and beliefs.”  (p. 14)  and “The writer must enable us to see and feel vividly what his characters see and feel …” (p. 44)

Any writer who can make the reader feel great anxiety for his characters and drive them to tears in relief has most definitely met the criteria set forth by Gardner.  That Myke Cole’s writing kept me fully engaged and emotionally involved says something about the great talent he has for telling a story.

There’s a thread running through The Killing Light about men and how they must be treated by women.  Repeatedly a female will say something like, “Everything with men is a great care.”  (p. 46)

Heloise was never meant to be and do all the things she does in The Sacred Throne trilogy.  She was meant to be a young woman who marries the man her parents have chosen for her and to settle into the role of home keeper, as women in her village have always done.

But we don’t always get to choose the shape our life takes and who we fall in love with.  The best we can hope is to be gentle with ourselves when we are tested. This is part of the story Myke Cole tells with Heloise, how she must accept and come to terms with herself, and her evolving beliefs and leadership skills.

Her world is one in which only hetero normative standards are accepted.  In Book 1, The Armored Saint, she finds herself in love with her best friend who not only doesn’t reciprocate those feelings, but is horrified by Heloise’s feelings.  Shortly after this reveal, Basina is killed and that death haunts Heloise more than anything else through the series.

Cole portrays her struggle with tenderness, and introduces Xilyka from one of the Traveling People clans who join Heloise’s army.  Xilyka becomes one of Heloise’s bodyguards, never leaving her side. It is in the most tender moments we see Heloise began to overcome her fear of being a lesbian, and of driving Xilyka away.

In one such scene, Heloise’s father, Samson, has arranged a private place with hot water so Heloise can bathe after many weeks on the battlefield, stuck in the war machine.  At this point, the agoraphobic leader  trembles in abject terror at leaving the machine which has protected her and allowed her to become the leader she is.  Samson the loving father tries to coax her out.  Xylika literally rides to the rescue, leading Heloise in her machine behind the screen and bathes her tenderly.  Cole does not ignore the sexual tension such a situation would create, but neither does he dwell on it. His deft writing shows us the normality of two people getting to know each other, carefully exploring the beginnings of a physical relationship.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is Onas, a 16-year-old boy from a different Traveling People clan who also becomes bodyguard, and tries to assert his authority over Heloise as potential husband.  This does not go well. Heloise is exhausted, she doubts her moral imperative to be leading this fight, is grieving for the many deaths caused in this war, and is in despair over having to re-evaluate the values she was taught about the Emperor and the Order.  She literally has no energy to put into this boy’s demands for romance.

Onas keeps pushing.  Heloise side steps, telling him when the war is over, she will think about it.  He sees what’s going on with Xilyka, which infuriates him and makes him push even harder.  Then, the unthinkable happens and Onas’ mother, the leader of his clan, dies in  battle. Onas blames Heloise for his mother’s death.

It becomes too much for him to bear when they stumble upon a band of the Order whose leader has killed so many, and Heloise refuses to let anyone kill Brother Tone.  She recognizes Tone can provide entrance and information into the Emperor’s city and palace that will prove useful.  Onas throws a teenaged temper tantrum and runs off taking other disgruntled fighters with him.

This is not unusual behavior.  Boys have been conditioned to believe that their wants and needs take precedence over a girl’s.  So it is with Onas and Heloise. Despite the many stupid reasons he throws at her as he storms away, the one he cannot voice is he expected her to fall into his arms and she did not.  All logic does not penetrate.

Onas is not the only male in this story who treats her as less than because of her gender.  Sir Steven, leader of the Red Army which falls in with Heloise and her villagers, treats her with great disdain both because she is young and, more to the point, a woman.  During a council at which he has commanded Heloise attend, she questions him. Obliviously he says, “This is my punishment for taking a council of war with a girl.” That word, that attitude, meant to demean her in the presence of other leaders has exactly the opposite effect.  She draws herself up and asserts her authority as the one who has killed a devil and therefore, has more expertise on this subject than Sir Steven.

When they reach the capital city, Steven’s attitude has changed and he treats her as equal.  He has seen her leadership grow, witnessed her wisdom. It is her determination to get through, and her insistence on continuing to fight when too many have died and others have given up, which leads Steven to fight more equitably alongside her.

Even Brother Tone who for two books did everything he could to kill Heloise and her village because of her questions regarding the Emperor’s governance comes to accept, and follow, her leadership.

In one of the pivotal scenes of The Killing Light, the reveal literally drives Tone to his knees, and makes him question everything he has ever believed.  He becomes vacant and only continues the fight at Heloise’s insistence. His knowledge is the key which will lead to stopping the war between Devils and humankind.

Tone goes from murderous devotee to thoughtful follower, all due to Heloise’s mission to settle things once and for all.  Most of the characters, male and female evolve, becoming more self-aware and thoughtful about their actions and the effects those have on the bigger picture.

Teenaged Onas is not completely immune to this, but  his maturity will come only through time.  Myke Cole’s writing shows he’s attentive to what makes the most sense for the entire cast, including keeping Onas true to his male teenaged arrogance.

The Killing Light is the satisfactory and logical ending to this trilogy.  Heloise becomes what she’s destined to become after all the pain and death she’s been witness to.  Heloise remains the hero we need for today.

Review: Shadow Ops: Breach Zone

Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole

Title: Shadow Ops:  Breach Zone
Author: Myke Cole
Published: 2014
ISBN-13: 9780425256374
Publisher: Ace (now Penguin Random House)
Twitter: @MykeCole
Publisher’s Blurb:  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…

Shadow Ops:  Breach Zone is book 3/3 in the Shadow Ops series

This series is a mess.  At first I thought it was because Mil SF isn’t my thing.  But then I like John Scalzi’s writing just fine.

Because I enjoyed Cole’s Sacred Throne trilogy so much (third one due in October, 2019) I had hopes for Shadow Ops.  What I will say, emphatically, is Cole has grown a great deal as a writer.  Heloise is the hero we’ve all been waiting for.

To recap, Control Point saw Oscar Britton make some of the most bone-headed, selfish decisions ever in the history of everything.  It’s in this book that Scylla is unleashed on the world.  We know in no uncertain terms, she is the most dangerous and evil creature in this world, and Britton has freed her for his own selfish reason.

Book 2, Fortress Frontier, introduces us to Alan Bookbinder, a Pentagon paper-pusher who Manifests a power no one else has and is sent to the Forward Operating Base in the Source until everything goes to hell and he ends up the commanding officer.  Oscar Britton is a bit player.

And now we come to Book 3, Breach Zone.  It’s all come together, in one big horrifying pornographic death frenzy in Manhattan.  Harlequin, a secondary character in the previous books who’s always played it by the rules, because rules are what separate the good guys from the bad, is put in charge of the defense.

Now Brigadier General Bookbinder is stuck on a US Coast Guard cutter, whose lunch is getting eaten by water goblins and leviathans, has to find his way to Harlequin’s base of operations to use Bookbinder’s unique magical power.

Oscar Britton doesn’t show up until very late in the book, still being let off the heinous thing he did in book 1.  The epitome of the misunderstood hero.  The monster he unleashed is leading an army of monsters to demolish Manhattan.  Scylla wants to start the new world order.

And just to make sure we understand why this is personal for Harlequin, intermittent flashbacks from six years before set the scene.  The romantic scene, of course.

All the complicated politics weight in.  Street gangs, loyal to no one scoff when asked to join the good fight.  Politicians and career officers want to use force against everything.  And, in typical fashion, only Harlequin and those on the front lines actually understand why fire power won’t work, only magic will.

There’s barely any mention of the Indian part of the Source, and Bookbinder’s experiences trying to save the US FOB.  Murica is truly on its own.

Then, bugles blaring, Oscar Britton arrives, makes a pretty little speech and everyone shows up to fight and save the day.  Peace, justice and the American way.

Or something …

Sacred Thrones is light years better from this.  I’ll call this a cautionary tale about back catalogues.  Cole’s worth reading, but this series isn’t.

Review: Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole

Title: Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier
Author: Myke Cole
Published: 2013
ISBN-13: 9780425256367
Publisher: Ace (now Penguin Random House)
Twitter: @MykeCole
Publisher’s Blurb: 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.

Shadow Ops:  Fortress Frontier is 2/3 in the Shadow Ops series.

Myke Cole’s second book in the Shadow Ops series is just as jam-packed as the first, Control Point, was.  And it can be just as confusing.

I’ll be honest, I dug into Fortress Frontier for the simplest reason ever.  I wanted to know what happened to Oscar Britton, last seen trying to make things right after he selfishly released Scylla who immediately laid waste to the SOC, opening it to invasion from the enemy indigents.

The things I had problems with in Control Point, bigotry and pick a frickin’ side would ya (Oscar Britton) are still present in Fortress Frontier.  But I may have a clearer view of the larger picture being written in this series.  Only book 3 Breach Zone will tell me if I’m close.

The heart of the Shadow Ops series is learning to cope with the changes brought about by unexpectable magical power manifestations.  Rumors abound, and people are scared.  Which leads to governmental manipulations and other ugliness well-known in this sort of fantasy world.

What Myke Cole brings to this is an inside look at what that chaos is like when the military and the governments try to handle change this massive.  Cole’s writing keeps things tense, and moving along.  The story he’s telling is one of great forces at play.

One of the big themes is how do you know what’s really the right thing to do, especially in the face of conflicting evidence and your own strong desires?  Shadow Ops has a very strong X-Men vibe to it.  People who manifest powers are subject to government control.  Fear is a strong motivator.

In Frontier Force, Alan Bookbinder is a rule-following Pentagon bureaucrat who manifests an unusual power.  Unlike Oscar Britton in Control Force, Bookbinder turns himself in and is subsequently sent to SOC in the Source.

Bookbinder and Britton have one thing in common, loyalty to the armed services, and to the government.  The difference is Bookbinder maintains that loyalty even when his very life is threatened.  Through this, Bookbinder becomes a leader people trust and follow into harrowing events.

Britton reappears in Fortress Frontier, but is pretty much as ineffective as he was in Control Force.  He has agency, but every step of the way, bad decision making dogs him.  The harder he tries to make up for his sloppiness, the worse it gets.  It’s difficult to like or understand what Britton is about.  His motivations are still selfish.

Bookbinder, on the other hand, takes the problem of being cut off from home and leads his troops through it.  And part of Colonel Bookbinder’s journey is across the Source to the Indian/Hindu version of FOB.  There he meets the Naga, snake like creatures who offer help but aren’t particularly forthcoming.

I wanted so much to like this book, and I did.  I liked it much more than Control Point.  But that doesn’t mean I can wholeheartedly recommend the series.

Still, Cole has earned enough of my readerly trust with his story-telling ability in The Armored Saint and The Queen of Crows that I’m willing to finish the trilogy with Shadow Ops:  Breach Zone.  Stay tuned.

 

Review: Shadow Ops: Control Point

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole

Title: Shadow Ops:  Control Point
Author: Myke Cole
Published: 2012
ISBN-13: 9781937007249
Publisher: Ace (now Penguin Random House)
Twitter: @MykeCole
Publisher’s Blurb: Lieutenant Oscar Britton of the Supernatural Operations Corps has been trained to hunt down and take out people possessing magical powers. But when he starts manifesting powers of his own, the SOC revokes Oscar’s government agent status to declare him public enemy number one.

Shadow Ops:  Control Point is 1/3 in the Shadow Ops series.

“They want me to kill a child,” is the opening line in Shadow Ops:  Control Point, which just sucked me in.  That is a “wait, WTF is going on here” first line if I’ve ever read one.

And it just spins out of control, fast and furious from there.  Control Point blazes hot, and scorches anyone in its path.  It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on, and who’s doing what.  Oh, and who’s the bad guy … no wait … good … no wait …

Oscar Britton has the rug yanked out from beneath him too many times, and after a while it gets tiresome.  I feel sorry for the guy, he has to cope with so much immediate change it fucks with his decision making process at every turn.  Everything he thought he knew and a life time of training are called into question the second he manifests a magical power he doesn’t understand and is forbidden by the government.

All the flip-flopping isn’t necessarily Britton’s fault, he’s just written that way.  Honestly, it’s hard to have much faith in Britton, the government (contractor or otherwise), anyone who says they know how to help or fix things (except maybe for the token good guy Goblin called Marty).

At every turn, Britton is put in situations which cause him to question everything all at once, again.  It gets to be a bit much.  Maybe having a bomb implanted in his heart just causes Britton to make extremely bad decisions which lead to even more death and destruction until almost everything he’s come to depend on is gone, or dead.

And we, the readers, are left hanging in an unfinished story about a man in search of his own redemption.  Shadow Ops:  Fortress Frontier, here I come.

 

 

New to the Stacks: Shadow Ops, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Other Goodness

They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders by Janet Mason

They by Janet Mason – Read
The Art of Fiction by John Gardner ~ #LitCrit ~ Read
Darkness Visible by William Styron
The Annotated Alice – annotated by Martin Gardner
Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole – Read
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
Darkness Visible by William Styron
Annotated Alice in Wonderland
Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates