Title: Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier
Author: Myke Cole
Publisher: Ace (now Penguin Random House)
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.