Breach Zone by Myke Cole – Book Review

Breach Zone by Myke Cole
Book Review

BreachZone_Final-1I’m a traditionalist when it comes to my fantasy. I love the idea of knights and castles, djenn and ifrit, even the muskets and magic emerging recently. I never thought I could get into the idea of a military fantasy. Luckily for me Myke Cole came along and changed my mind. Except to call his Shadow Ops series, and the third book Breach Zone, only a military fantasy would be a huge disservice. It’s so much more than that.

It’s a story about love, hard decisions, identity, and so much more. Myke Cole has switched the main protagonist in each book. The perspective shifts to what was once a secondary, or unknown, character, giving a broader scope of the world as it’s seen through fresh eyes. Instead of growing bored with a character the bond can begin anew. I’ve grown connected not to a handful of characters shallowly but a range of characters in depth.

Scylla, the villain of Breach Zone is a tragic character, twisted by circumstance to be the enemy. Control Point and Fortress Frontier made Scylla out to be the worst of the worst. She is a crazed psychopath who uses her power of decay to kill and destroy. Breach Zone gives us another look at this woman, a woman named Grace.

Harlequin, the SOC aeromancer, is our guide through the third book in the Shadow Ops world. Cole has done something special in the structure of this book in giving us two stories, one set in the present the other the past, and interweaving them until they climax at the finale. It’s a tricky move and could’ve easily backfired if the stories weren’t properly balanced. Instead, I thought they were paced exceptionally. Teasing the origins of Grace/Scylla and matching those thoughts to the woman we thought we knew all along while she invades Manhattan.

Breach Zone MapBreach Zone is set almost entirely on the island of Manhattan in New York City and it’s apparent that this is Myke’s home. The Breach to the Source is on Wall St, gangs are hiding out in China Town and Tribeca, and the HQ for the defense is at Battery Park. Each was imagined so faithfully that on a recent visit to NYC, I couldn’t help but picture Gahe, Roc’s and Goblins swarming over the skyscrapers only to do battle with aeromancers and other SOC sorcerers.

Myke Cole was the author that got me to step away from “traditional” fantasy and really explore the subgenres. It’s military fantasy imagined with all the intricacies that come with magic reappearing in a modern world filled with tanks, drones, and soldiers. He’s pushing the boundaries of fantasy both in his writing structure and the level of depth and emotional connection to his characters. This is a series filled with trials and personal journeys. It’s a series that must be read. Myke Cole knows how to tell a complex story in a richly imagined world and for that I thank him and politely shout for more.

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Breach Zone by Myke Cole – Cover Reveal

On Wednesday Myke Cole, author of the Control Point Series – Shadow Ops, Breach Zone, and Breach Zone, revealed the cover for his upcoming novel Breach Zone. Another gorgeous piece done by Michael Kormarck, Breach Zone  is in my opinion the best of the three. Giving us a wonderful look at Harlequin, lightning arcing between his hands while destruction looms in the background. Cole has already said Breach Zone will be an explosive installment in his trilogy as war comes to New York City from the Source.

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I know the adage as well as anyone, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” but I think this is one case that we’ll all be pleasantly surprised by what’s waiting for us behind this cover come January 28, 2014.

– – –

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…

Elsewhere on N.Schmiedicker:

Control Point Review
Fortress Frontier Review
Interview with Myke Cole

Myke Cole – Author Interview

Myke Cole – Author Interview

ShadowOpsCoverJoining us today is Myke Cole, author of the Shadow Ops series, Control PointFortress Frontier, and the forthcoming Breach Zone. He was gracious enough to agree to this interview and I hope you all enjoy hearing what he has to say as much as I did.

Myke keeps a fantastic blog over at his website, http://mykecole.com/category/blog, that is one of my go to sources whenever I need a kick in the pants and motivation to get back to writing and finishing my own work. He isn’t afraid to tell the honest truth and he won’t sugarcoat any of it. Without any further ado, here’s Myke Cole!

  • First off, why not give us a little bit of info about who Myke Cole is and what he’s accomplished?

* There are two main threads in my life: my nerd roots in comic books, fantasy novels and role-playing games, and my deep and abiding interest in national security. Those two passions have been a constant in my life.

The results have been predictable. I’ve had a long (and ongoing) military career, including three tours in Iraq and deployments to respond to a bunch of domestic disasters. I’m also fortunate enough to have gotten two back-to-back book deals, which means that I’m going to publish at least 6 novels. That’s a dream come true for me, and I’m continually pinching myself and trying to come to grips with the fact that it actually happened. My two great passions combine in my writing in what seems to me like an inevitable way: I write fantasy novels about military hard operators who use magic.

Accomplishments? Let me pick two, one from each side of my life: At the end of my third tour in Iraq, I was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal from Admiral McRaven (the head of US Special Forces. You see him at the end of Zero Dark Thirty). My first novel, CONTROL POINT, recently won the Compton-Crook Award for 2013. Awards are brief shots of adrenaline, and in the end you’re left with the work, but those few moments in the sun sure are nice.

  • What’s a standard writing session look like for you? Do you have any particular rituals that you like to do before writing for the day?

* When I first went full time as a writer, I had a writing routine, but once I got assigned to my new guard unit and CONTROL POINT came out, all that went to hell. My life is as unpredictable as it is full and every day is different. There are days where I sit in a coffee shop and write for hours on end, and there are weeks where I can’t find the time to write a word. I’m sometimes amazed that I get as much accomplished as I do (one book a year so far, and I’m fairly confident I can keep that up).

My current ritual? I’ll steal this from about 5 different people on Twitter: When I’m ready to write, I pour myself a cup of coffee, sit down, and attempt to read the entire Internet.

  • What was the hardest part about the formation of the Control Point world? Did any one aspect give you more trouble than you expected?

* Never the world. Worlds are easy, they do precisely what you tell them to do, and grow and change in the directions you dictate. Ditto for plot. Character is the real challenge (and the real heart of what makes a story good). Characters frequently don’t want to follow the orderly plot you’ve laid out for them to follow, and they can come off wooden if you force the issue.

It’s critical that a writer be willing to subordinate plot in order to give the characters compelling, believable motives and to follow them on their logical course of action. The characters were the hardest part of the SHADOW OPS universe, just as they are the hardest part of any universe I work in. But like anything in life that’s hard to do, it’s SO awesome when you pull it off.

  • Oscar Britton and Alan Bookbinder are two very different people thrust ShadowOps_FortressFrontier_US_Final1into the world of magic yet they handle their situation very differently. How important was it for you to have such different characters star in each of your books?

* Extremely. Ace (my publisher) is famous for doing serials that follow a single protagonist. Examples include Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs and Jack Campbell. But that was never my intent.

All my favorite writers (Peter V. Brett, George R. R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch) have ensemble casts. Even when the story has a main protagonist, there is a huge supporting cast that is richly and fully developed. Martin takes it to extremes, and I love him for it. Following a single protagonist doesn’t work for me. I find the breadth and diversity of humanity too fascinating to follow any one person for too long. Exploring Britton and Bookbinder (and Harlequin, as you’ll see in BREACH ZONE) allowed me to indulge this magpie fascination, and also challenged me to truly empathize with very different points of view. That’s one of the most important ways to grow as a writer.

  • After Breach Zone you have another book, Gemini Cell, in the works, which is a prequel that shows the birth of the Supernatural Operations Corps. Is this the start of a new trilogy set in the past or merely a bridge into a new series?

* The jury is still out on that. My contract states that I will write GEMINI CELL and one sequel to it, but the third book is up in the air. I have a stand alone SHADOW OPS novel in mind that follows the character Render from FORTRESS FRONTIER on his own story, and I love the way that Joe Abercrombie writes “stand alone” novels that actually further his universe in a way that’s hugely satisfying for fans of serial novels. Render might be the star of a novel that tries to do that. We’ll see.

I also have a full outline and about 10,000 words of a straight medieval fantasy down. It’s dark stuff, with a young girl as the protagonist. The working title is THE FRACTURED GIRL, and I’m definitely going to finish it. The question of when I’m going to finish it is still up in the air. I’ve sold myself to the publishing industry as a hard-edged military writer, and this book will have to be dynamite to get them to see past that stereotype. I hope I can make it that good. I guess we’ll find out.

  • I’ve seen you mention before a board game based on the Shadow Ops world. Any chance of this becoming a reality for your fans?

* I have a completed rulebook and have play tested it with many people (including a pro game-designer) and they all say it’s a really great game and commercially viable. The only problem is that it would be an expensive game to manufacture and have a high sticker price. I’m at the point where I need to hire an illustrator to flesh out the manual and put in diagrams, and then send it out to my fans to playtest straight out of the box without any guidance from me. I’m blessed with a large body of fans who would be happy to do this, but I just need the time to get it moving. It’s hard to justify spending precious hours working on a game that’s paying me nothing when I have books to write that are already under contract.

  • You have the chance to be transported and spend time in the world of any book of your choosing, with the option of coming back at your leisure. Which do you pick and why?

* So ironic. I rail and rail against those who criticize the dark flavor of newer fantasy novels (the scathing term “grimdark”), but when you ask me this question, I see their point. My favorite fantasy novels all take place in worlds so bleak and nasty, I would never want to live in them.

So, I’ll take one from my childhood. I’d love to visit Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea. I’m a maritime officer, and I spend a lot of time on the water. For me, it’s a thing of hard edges, a place where I have to save lives and enforce the law, and where a single misstep can have devastating consequences. But Earthsea makes the water seem enchanting, pregnant with magic, gently dancing waves and the sun dissolving in molten gold. I’d like to see that, if only for a little while.

  • I have a personal love for collecting prop replicas and have noticed a lot of authors have started offering merchandise from their world. You are one of the few that doesn’t sell your replica but instead has a challenge coin exchange system. Why did you decide to do this and will we see more replicas from the Shadow Ops universe?

* The challenge coin is a century old military tradition. Challenge coins are awards, calling cards, thank you notes, and lucky totems, all rolled into one. The tradition of swapping coins is also a distinct and enduring US military tradition. Since the SHADOW OPS novels are so clearly American military stories, I thought it would be neat to honor that tradition by minting my own coins stamped with the crest of the fictional units in the story. Swapping them also helps bring me closer with my readers, and that means the world to me.

challengecoin

As for other replicas, I’ve got unit patches (that can Velcro onto uniforms), but other than that, no plans. But I do love fan art, hint hint.

  • Say the Great Reawakening, the rebirth of magic to the world, from your book happens tomorrow. What do you do and what role do you play as people start taking to the skies and summoning elementals?

* It pains me to admit it, but it’s the truth: I am a company grade officer in the US military. I would carry out the orders of my superiors provided they were legal. The McGauer-Linden Act makes it clear: Selfers are to be brought to justice. I would be commanding a gunboat squadron patrolling the coastline, or bringing guns to bear when Selfer Hydromancers were reported to have escaped into the sea.

Oscar Britton has the courage to defy his government and follow his conscience. I am not nearly that brave.

  • Lastly, thanks for agreeing to this interview! Is there anything else you’d like to say or add before you go?

* It’s not a dead certainty yet, but it looks like I’ll be having a SHADOW OPS novelette published in a major fantasy anthology coming out this fall. It takes place just before BREACH ZONE, and finally gives readers a story from the goblin point of view. I’m really pleased with it, and hope you will be too.

Thanks so much for having me!

Shadow Ops: Control Point Review     Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier Review

Author Bio:

HeadshotAs a secu­rity con­tractor, gov­ern­ment civilian and mil­i­tary officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Coun­tert­er­rorism 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.

All that con­flict can wear a guy out. Thank good­ness for fan­tasy novels, comic books, late night games of Dun­geons and Dragons and lots of angst fueled writing.

Myke Cole’s Website

Control Point on Amazon

Fortress Frontier on Amazon

Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole – Review

Shadow Ops:Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole – Review

Cole-SO2-FortressFrontierUK_thumb[3]

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers–summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed…but not for everyone.
 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.
Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place–Oscar Britton, public enemy number one.
….

Myke Cole gives us the sequel to one of the biggest debut successes of 2012 with Control Point. Now he’s back with Fortress Frontier, which brings new characters, schools of magic, and all around depth to the alternate world Cole imagined for his Shadow Ops series. I managed to get my hands on an advance copy and take my word for it, this is not a series you want to miss.

Cole set a breakneck pace with his first book and there were a few worried he wouldn’t be able to match the success his first book gained, but fortunately for us he excelled past expectations and delivered a book that is better in every aspect of the word.

Instead of continuing the story of the renegade Oscar Britton, Cole decides to switch gears and give us a new protagonist to follow. Alan Bookbinder. Contrary to Britton’s experiences as a soldier Bookbinder is a Grade A paper-pusher. More often dealing with paper cuts than bullet wounds. That is, until he manifests as a Latent, the term used to describe magic users in Cole’s parallel world.

Unlike Britton, Bookbinder follows the law and turns himself in to the authorities after confirming he is indeed Latent. This gives us the chance to see how the United States officially deals with Latency and casts a dividing line between Control Point and Fortress Frontier as we see both sides of the military coin. Suffice it to say, I empathize with Britton more after learning what really happens when you willingly hand yourself over to the Supernatural Operations Corps.

Cole wisely gives us a little breathing room to learn about Bookbinder before catching up and continuing with the events of Control Point. Britton’s heroic battle at the F.O.B (Forward Operating Base) and subsequent strikes against the U.S military forces is given new light as we see the true ramifications of his choice to cut the F.O.B and it’s inhabitants off from the human world.

Bookbinder is forced to leave his desk and march across the Source with a small force at his backside, intent on finding salvation for his men who are under attack from hordes of goblins. It’s here Cole’s worldbuilding shines like a beacon as we explore the Source, see new creatures, and most interestingly how a foreign country has handled the discovery of magic and the Source plane. Along the way we discover more of Bookbinder’s new magical abilities, which make him worth more than his weight in gold to certain factions.

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Myke Cole’s skills in writing have matured in leaps and bounds compared to Book 1 and I am looking forward to seeing him round out the Shadow Ops trilogy with the  final novel Breach Zone. I never thought military-fantasy would be something that would interest me but I sit here now eating a big ol’ plate of humble pie. Cole has crafted an imaginative, detailed world that any fan of fantasy would love to escape into. Read Control Point, read Fortress Frontier, and sit on the sidelines as Myke finishes Breach Zone and devour that book as well when it arrives. You will not regret it.