Read by Korey Jackson
Length: 13 Hrs 55 Min
Genre: Military Fantasy
Quick Thoughts: Fortress Frontier is an important step, not just for Myke Cole as an author, but for Fantasy in general. It’s a classic adventure filled quest tale that enhances the tropes instead of relying on them, set within a brilliant and refreshing world. The Action is crisp, the characters real and my only disappointment was arriving at the end.
If you have followed this blog at all you will know I am a big fan of military science fiction. I myself have no first hand military knowledge and most of what I know comes from books, movies and the very few times my father spoke about his time as a Marine in Vietnam. While I enjoy a good battles scene, one of my favorite aspects of Military Science Fiction is logistics. I like the early planning stages, the training, the forming of the teams, the development of the weapons they will need to fight in the terrains of a science fiction setting, the innovative ways to handle unforeseen problems and placing proper pieces in place to form and protect the supply lines. When all that is done right, the big battles scenes seem to come off even better. Yet, it seems within every military science fiction novel there is a character that I call bureaucratic nemesis. This is a person who is on the same side as our hero, but has a small sphere of influence which he controls and uses that influence to place obstacles in our hero’s way. This character tends to have a bureaucratic position, out of harms way with little or no actual combat experience. This is the character that is often referred to with the acronym REMF, Rear Echelon Mother "Fornicator." Yet, this has always sort of bothered me because many people from Sun Tzu to George Patton have said that war is won through logistics. I understand the desire to make front line people heroes, but this doesn’t necessarily make all rear echelon people little Napoleons who are willing to risk soldier’s lives in order to keep their little bit of power intact. A good bureaucrat can be a powerful ally. This is one reason I was quite interested when I learned that the latest Shadow Ops novel, Fortress Frontier, would have a new perspective character who worked as a Logistical officer.
Fortress Frontier continues the Shadow Ops series about a world where people who manifest magical powers are placed under the control of the military. After the events of Control Point, FOB Frontier is cut off from the home plane, and under constant attack from unfriendly Goblin forces. Col Alan Bookbinder, a logistical officer at the Pentagon, has recently come up latent with a strange new power and is sent to the Forward Operating Base in the alternate plane called The Source. Finding himself in a direct command position for the first time in his career, Bookbinder must try to keep the Fortress supplied, create a viable defense against the increasing encroaching Goblin forces, while looking for a way to reconnect with home. I loved the first novel of this series, Control Point with some reservations. For Fortress Frontier, all the reservations are gone. This sequel exceeds the original in almost every way. Cole managed to turn one of the biggest criticisms of Control Points into the strength of Fortress Frontier. Many people complained about the main character, Oscar Britton’s confliction and indecisiveness in the first novel, because if you suddenly found yourself with magical powers, and being hunted by the very organization that you spent your life serving, you would know exactly what to do. I found the conflicts and indecision of Oscar to be frustrating but realistic. Alan Bookbinder is himself full of conflict and self doubt, but it manifests itself in a different way. Bookbinder becomes a more endearing hero, the selfless man who finds inner strength to achieve what he never thought possible. I like both characters, Britton and Bookbinder and personally, I feel the strength of Fortress Frontier wasn’t that Bookbinder was a more likable character, but that he brings more of a balance to the tale. Cole has created two very different roads that lead to the same destination. In essence the Bookbinder perspective is about a character discovering his ability to lead within an organization structure, while Oscar Britton’s perspective is about leadership without the underlining discipline and structure of the establishment and its moral issues. You could feel the maturation of Cole as an author as you followed both paths and how they influenced the other. Cole also succeeds at breathing new life into Fantasy. Like Peter V. Brett, Cole manages to utilize classic mythology yet bends it to his will, creating new and fascinating creatures and placing them within a vivid and unique world. It’s refreshing to have a Military Based genre novel, where the author isn’t trying to force any sort of ideology onto you, but instead embraces classic themes like service, responsibility and moral honesty. Fortress Frontier is an important step, not just for Myke Cole as an author, but for Fantasy in general. It’s a classic adventure filled quest tale that enhances the tropes instead of relying on them, set within a brilliant and refreshing world. The Action is crisp, the characters real and my only disappointment was arriving at the end.
Korey Jackson continues as narrator for this series, and like Cole, manages to top his solid performance in Control Point. My major criticism of Jackson in the first novel was with his pacing early in the novel. He seemed a bit unsure of the world at first, and it affected his ability to capture the narrative flow. This was not a problem at all in Fortress Frontier. Jackson captures the rhythms of the tale from the first words, and never loses his flow. He has a deep, resonant voice that brings a depth to the novel yet is also a bit edgy and unique. His characterizations are stronger as well creating distinct voices for character’s both human, and otherwise. He captures the inner conflict within Bookbinder perfectly. One of my major complaints with narrators is an inability to delineate between inner and external dialogue. Here Jackson manages to portray Bookbinder’s external "fake it til you make it" attitude, then soften his tone for Bookbinder’s inner thoughts, adding a taste of desperation. My only small complain is that during the action scenes I felt he could have added a bit more urgency to his reading. His slow, confident pacing works well in much of the novel, but at points it would have been nice to have him racket up the tension during the climatic moments of the story. All in All, Fortress Frontier is a great listen. I was enthralled with the tale from the moment I hit play, and sucked it into my mind like sweet nectar. It will have to be an exceptionally strong audiobook year for Myke Cole not to end up even higher on my End of Year favorite list.