Fortress Frontier: supernatural special ops

FortressFrontierThis the second in Myke Cole’s magical / militaristic mash-up series set in the near future – and I enjoyed it more than the first, Control Point. The action overlaps between the two books with a new central character, Bookbinder, developing psy-powers at the start of Frontier Fortress. Then we catch up with the cast of Control Point for a while, before the plot drags everyone together for a slam-bam fighting finale. It’s a ripping read which I tore through in a couple of days.

In this universe, humans have been sprouting psy abilities of different types since magic started seeping through realities, from another plane called the Source. The Source is inhabited by a variety of freaky and fearsome creatures – some of them friendly to the human outposts, most not. The US military trains units of the more acceptable psy-soldiers who can light fires, form earth, control water, and so on – and outsources those gifted with the nastier abilities to deniable contractors. In America, you have few choices if you suddenly demonstrate psy powers. Bookbinder is yanked out of his usual deskjob as a high-ranking army paper-pusher and punted into the front line in another dimension. Many people choose to go underground and flee the restrictive system, and of course the government lies to the people about exactly what’s going on…

Bookbinder is an interesting character who starts off as a middle-aged career solder family man who’s never seen action in his life. He’s more worried about his bowel movements than being blasted by a goblin or a dragon. His transfer to the forward base in the Source, and the rapid unravelling of events forms the backbone of the book – it’s a convincing tale of how he must face up to his responsibilities under fire… or die trying.

The middle section where we catch up with the characters from the first book is less successful. Apart from Oscar Britton (the only person who can open a portal to rescue the cut-off troops in the Source), most of the other characters are hard to pin down. They swap between names and call-signs – I didn’t really get a handle on them all in Control Point, and again found little memorable about them this time around.

The two plots are neatly tied together, however, and we meet a bunch more interesting supernatural types in Frontier Fortress. There are plenty of parallels with the real world; you can draw your own conclusions with the relations between indigenous peoples, or how earth’s ‘allies’ barely seem to be co-operating. I adored the Indian outpost and its supernatural, sentient semi-gods.

There’s a whole heap of imagination gone into this series. Cole writes with crisp prose and a good balance of militaristic slang (you might need to read the glossary to get a hang of all the acronyms). He’s created a solid cast of characters and a massive canvas for them to skirmish, scramble and scuffle across. Can’t wait to see what the next weird psy ability is going to be…

Definitely recommend you read the first book before this one. You could start here, but it’ll make more sense with all the background info. And then you can gallop straight onto the third in the series, Breach Zone.

8/10

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

The Shadow Ops series by Myke Cole are available as ebooks and in paperback

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