Control Point: a rip-snorting military magical romp

ControlPointControl Point gets off to a rollicking start, and if it could have maintained the pace and the atmosphere throughout then this would be a five-star review. However, it gets a bit bogged down about two-thirds of the way through, when the protagonist takes anguished debate on the morals of his situation beyond dithering and into plain shilly-shally repetition. Despite that, this is an excellent start to a new sci-fi / supernatural military series.

Many of the concepts in this alternative reality may be borrowed, but Myke Cole has skilfully blended them into a coherent and credible universe. It’s one a lot like our own, except that folks are popping up with magic talents. Black ops units DO exist inside the US army, staffed with sorcerers who are coming to terms with their talents and the fact that they’re fighting on all fronts. The army has to cope with human magicians running wild, and then there’s the off-world action, which takes place in the source of the magic. Here (in a setting which shares many similarities with Afghanistan), the army pushes into new territory and comes under constant attack from the indigenous peoples and their magical – previously mythical – beasts.

Amid all that, our hero has to come to terms with his new powers and how that has ripped apart his army career, caused massive personal mayhem, and left him unsure of where he stands and who he’s fighting for. Cole delivers a harsh but believable version of a military bootcamp and takes time over important details that are often overlooked in this kind of fiction, like sighting in a new weapon when it’s initially issued. You really should take the time to study the glossary before diving into the story, because you’ll enjoy it all the more if the military slang and acronyms make some kind of sense.

The first half of the book fair romped along, but the hero keeps returning to his core dilemma – the same as many soldiers sent into dubious situations, he can’t quite commit to killing for the reasons he’s been given. It doesn’t help, of course, that the Army has planted a bomb in his chest to keep him in check. So Control Point offers a snappy set-up and an interesting moral debate. Not all soldiers are grunts, and an intelligent officer may well have trouble coming to terms with seemingly inconsistent orders. ‘Just following orders’ isn’t an excuse for crimes against… aliens!

It all just needed to move along a little faster for my tastes. I also got weary of all the call-signs and weird nicknames; after a while I found myself longing for someone called Jones. Or Smith. Or John. But not Sillymander or somesuch.

However, ‘Control Point’ introduced some intriguing characters, and I was pleased that the baddest ass, meanest witch was indeed a woman – a brave move in a book as testosterone-soaked as this one.

Cole’s writing is easy to absorb although some of the dialogue clunks a touch, but the action drives the plot forward and I didn’t spend too much time concerned with Control Point’s contribution to modern literature. Big guns: wild magic: beefy boys in big boots with bad attitudes. 

On reflection, I haven’t enjoyed a guns and ghouls book as much as this since the original Death’s Head… which is a fair compliment. Roll on the sequel. And the next!

 

7/10

 

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

 

Control point is available in paperback and ebook formats, alongside the sequel Fortress Frontier and the third book in the series, Breach Zone

 

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