Audiobook Review: Control Point by Myke Cole

14 02 2012

Control Point by Myke Cole (Shadow Ops, Bk. 1)

Read by Corey Jackson

Recorded Books

Length: 15 Hrs 3 Min

Genre: Military Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Control Point delivered what I thought it would, tons of action, a fascinating world, and an authentic military feel. Yet, it’s what I didn’t expect that put this over the top for me. A hero I’m still not quite sure I can believe in and a blurred line between the good guys and the bad guys that lead to an emotionally devastating climax. Control Point is a novel that will be bouncing around in my head for a long, long time, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Grade: A

This first part of 2012 was full of new release audiobooks that I was really looking forward to. One of my most anticipated releases was the debut of Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series, called Control Point. One of the reasons that my anticipation was so high, was I first discovered the existence of this series back in July of 2011. As a big fan of military science fiction series, I am always on the lookout for new series. Some of my favorite audiobook experiences have been military science fiction, especially John Ringo and David Weber’s Prince Roger series, and anything by Jack Campbell, aka John Hemry. Yet, with Myke Cole, there was a new added twist, his Shadow Ops is not really military science fiction, but a Military Urban Fantasy series. Basically, what I was picturing was modern day Urban Warfare, but with magic. This was something I haven’t seen before, and was excited about the concept. Also, the fact that Cole has served in the US military, in multiple functions, and has the experience to deliver an authentic account of the modern soldier made me even more interested to see what he had to offer. So, as release day grew closer, I was quite excited. I was looking for a fun, action filled  Military Fantasy, written by someone who knows the way a soldier thinks, and what it means to be a piece in the machinery of the US armed forces. Yet, I don’t think I was really prepared for what I was going to experience with this novel.

The World has experienced an Awakening. A small percentage of the earth’s population begins to manifest latent magical talents. As you may expect, this shakes things up pretty well, and governments must adapt to these new powers. In the US, anyone manifesting a magical power must turn themselves into the government, or be hunted down as a “selfer.” Oscar Britton is one of those hunters, until he begins to manifest a very rare and dangerous power, a power that is strictly prohibited by the government, and will probably lead to his death. Cole has created a fascinating near future world that echoes many of the same issues we are dealing with now. He also constructs an interesting and logical magical system. One of my worries was that people who are hesitant about magical fantasy may have trouble with the magic system but Cole bases them on very base ideas, and allows you to get comfortable with their execution, before adding in some interesting twists. As expected. Cole builds a solid foundation with his changed world, but what he does with it is what I wasn’t prepared for. Our main character Oscar Britton’s world is shattered when he discovers his magical talent, and as a soldier he must fight his sense of duty, what he believed to be right with his sense of survival, and his belief in his rights as an American citizen. I found Oscar to be frustrating and at times, uneven. The major theme of this novel is control. Oscar fights to control his new powers, while he also battles to control his own destiny. He goes back and forth with himself, seemingly changing perspectives at a drop of his fat. He is often self delusional, and develops conflicting rationale for what he does, and what is being done to him. He is hyper critical of others, often for doing something he has done himself or will soon do but, is always trying to do what he feels is right. I was so conflicted about Oscar and his decisions. I wanted to like him, I wanted the decisions he made to be right, but I became more and more frustrated with him as the novel progressed. Now, please don’t mistake this criticism of the character for criticism of the author, because it is just the opposite. Cole has created one of the most human characters I have read in a long time. There was one moment in this novel, where I was simply devastated at the decision Oscar was about to make, and had to stop what I was doing, and was actually pleading with him in my head. I’m still not sure what I think about this character and the choices he made, but I was and still am riveted by them. I really can’t think of a better example in fiction where the shades of gray were this explosive. Control Point delivered what I thought it would, tons of action, a fascinating world, and an authentic military feel. Yet, it’s what I didn’t expect that put this over the top for me. If you want a tale with a clearly defined line between the good guys and the bad guys, and a main character who is a hero, incapable of making a wrong choice, then Control Point probably isn’t for you.  But, if you like a story that will make you think, a character who acts like the infallible human being he is, and morality colored by perspective instead of being force fed to you by the writer, then you absolutely must read Control Point.

This is my first time experiencing Corey Jackson’s narration and the first thing I noticed was the rich, strong tones of his voice. Jackson was a wonderful choice for the voice of Oscar Britton. I did have a few small issues with the overall production though, and I think for the most part this was due to direction and editing. In the early parts of the novel, Jackson reads with a very slow, deliberate pace, with pauses between sentences that seems just a half second too long. While this worked fine in the fast paced action scenes, it became a bit distracting during some of the slower moments, and I think affected his ability to match the rhythm of the novel. Yet, eventually, the performance smoothed out, and he began to take on the perfect storytelling flow. I found his narration in the second half of the novel to be spot on and memorizing.  Jackson doesn’t do a lot to differentiate character voices in many circumstances, just a slight change in tone or cadence, but it works well. I absolutely loved his vocal interpretation of Marty, and I felt he did a good job with the female characters as well. Overall I was very pleased with Jackson’s performance and will be looking for more of his work in the future. I highly recommend Control Point to fans of fast paced action thrillers, along the lines of Jonathon Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, as well as fans of science fiction and fantasy.

Audiobook Review: The Hot Gate by John Ringo

11 05 2011

The Hot Gate by John Ringo (Troy Rising, Book 3)

Read by Mark Boyett

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Despite some issues, The Hot Gate is an entertaining novel that most fans of John Ringo will love.

Grade: B

I am a fan of John Ringo. I stated that at the beginning of my review of Citadel and I will reiterate it at the beginning of my review of The Hot Gate, the third book in the Troy Rising Military Science Fiction series. In fact, I hold John Ringo mainly responsible for introducing me to military sci-fi. His Posleen War series was probably the first major military sci-fi series I have read, and I enjoyed it so much that I began searching out more and more similar types of books. That is one of the things I enjoy about reading, sometimes you take a chance on something different, or maybe pick up something that has elements you like, but elements you have never really tried before, and it opens the door to so many new authors and works. I originally read A Hymn Before Dying mostly because it had some Post Apocalyptic elements and it was recommended on some PA boards. At that point the majority of my science fiction readings were within that subgenre, now, my sci-fi base has greatly expanded. I have John Ringo partly to thank for that.

I enjoyed The Hot Gate. I say that with some reservation. The majority of the book was from the POV of Engineer’s Mate Dana “Comet” Parker. Parker is truly a great character. She’s well grounded, principled and utterly likeable. The first two-thirds of the book, for the most part, dealt with the culture clash between her, and Latin American members of the Alliance. Parker is sent to the battle Station Thermopylae where the majority of the personnel are from South American countries. While I enjoyed the interplay and cultural differences, at some points I felt uncomfortable with caricatures of the South Americans in the story. Ringo may be dead on with how they behave especially the upper class of the Argentinean society, but, not being knowledgeable about that subject it felt a bit, well, politically incorrect.  Yet, as a fan of Ringo, you come to expect him to never let political correctness get in the way of a good story. The last third of the book mainly dealt with the battle between the Alliance forces and the Alien baddies determined to control the Terra System and Alliance space. Unlike most of Ringo’s battle scenes I found this one a bit cluttered and hard to follow. There were some fun moments, and some tragic moments, but it was hard to keep the overall battle straight in my head. My biggest problem with the novel came from my expectations. From the beginning the Troy Rising series was advertised as a book in three parts, and I expected this third book to tie all the lose ends together and gives us the big finale. Yet, I only discovered after reading it, that Ringo has decided to expand the series beyond the trilogy, and The Hot Gate felt more like a segue book than a finale.

Mark Boyett handles the narration and does a fine job. He’s a solid narrator and does an excellent job with some characterizations. That being said, I think some of my confusion in listening to the battle scenes is that his alien voices don’t really come off all that alien, and I tended to have a hard time remembering which individual character was an alien baddie, and which was a human good guy. Other than that small issue, the audiobook production was pretty solid. Being that the book was told mostly from a female POV, it was a good thing that Boyett handles female voices pretty well. While I had my issues with The Hot Gate, it was still an entertaining novel that most fans of John Ringo are sure to love.