I reviewed Myke Cole‘s first book, Shadow Ops: Control Point, back in January of 2012. Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the sequel, and if you liked the first book, I suspect you’ll like this one even more.
Book two picks up where the first one left off, but switches to the perspective of Colonel Alan Bookbinder, a military man more comfortable behind a desk than in actual combat. He’s a quiet, nervous, even timid man, but when he comes up latent (displaying magical abilities), all that changes. He’s drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps, and ends up on the FOB Frontier, another world filled with magic and goblins and more.
While “write what you know” is generally a silly rule, Cole shows how it can work, using his own military background to create a solid, believable military fantasy. One of my favorite parts of the book was watching Bookbinder learn to move through his fears and develop his own leadership abilities.
Oscar Britton, the p0rtamancer protagonist from book one, also gets some point of view time in the book. It can be odd switching perspectives after spending so much time with one character, but I think it worked here. It was important to see what he’s been doing since book one, and how those events have changed him.
I enjoyed meeting the naga, learning more about the creatures of the Source, and seeing how other nations are dealing with magic and this fantastic frontier. And I appreciate that Cole went back to address the potentially deadly mess Oscar Britton left behind in book one.
In some respects, this is very much a middle book. (The third book, Breach Zone, comes out in January of 2014.) While relatively self-contained, the larger story arc about how people with magical powers are treated and mistreated, as well as the secrets of the magical frontier — “the Source” — are left unresolved. Indeed, this book ups the stakes in a number of ways. Assuming book three is the last one, I expect quite the crescendo.
You can read an excerpt of the first book at Tor.com, here. If you like the excerpt, you’ll probably like the first book. If you liked the first book, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the second.
I wrote the introduction to the first Velveteen collection, Velveteen vs. the Junior Super Patriots, so I was very thankful (do you see what I did there?) to get my hands on book two. In this book, bunny-eared superheroine Velveteen, with the power to animate toys, continues her battle against the the forces of the Super Patriots, Inc.
I emailed Seanan after I finished reading the collection, telling her she was awesome, and that I was honored to be her friend. She wrote back to say thank you, but that she wasn’t sure what about her silly superhero stories had inspired such a response.
That’s a fair question, and it’s taken me a few days to try to put it into words. Because sure, there’s a fair amount of silliness going on in these stories. There’s a superhero who’s basically a Disney princess come to life. There are Velveteen’s green plastic army men shooting tiny plastic bullets at bad guys. There’s a whole story about getting trapped in a typical horror flick.
But despite the silliness, the characters are always treated with respect. They feel like real people, even when they’re flung into rather odd or absurd situations. Their struggles and their love and their pain are real, and you very quickly start to care about them all. I think that’s one of Seanan’s superpowers.
There’s more going on here, though. These stories, this book, felt … unfiltered in a way most books don’t. It felt like Seanan McGuire had written these stories purely for the fun and joy and love of it. Knowing her as a friend, I could see her shamelessly indulging her love of parallel universes and toys and twisted holidays and fairy tales and horror films and so much more, and it works. This collection is an invitation to join Seanan in celebrating everything she loves.
Now sure, if you don’t like the same things she does, then the stories may not work for you. No book works for everyone, after all. And not everyone has the same tolerance for the fun/silly factor in stories.
But I like it. I like the random-but-carefully-thought-out superpowers combined with the all-too-real corporate overlords of the Super Patriots, Inc. I like that she never forgets that all victories come with a cost. I like that the individual, mostly-standalone stories don’t feel repetitive. I like the character revelations we get in this book.
I liked the first collection, but by the end of this one, I felt like Seanan had accomplished something magical.
Go forth and read and buy. For justice!
Legend of Korra
Legend of Korra
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): At the South Pole, Tonraq and his rebels are defeated by Unalaq and his forces. Meanwhile, in Republic City, Bolin prevents four waterbenders from kidnapping President Raiko and his wife. After a brief battle, the earthbender forces one of the man to reveal Varrick as the mastermind behind it all, leading to his arrest. With Mako’s allegations proven correct, he is released from prison. Korra and Tenzin and his family return to Republic City to gather reinforcements to travel South in order to stop Unalaq from freeing Vaatu and destroying the world. When Raiko refuses to send the United Forces, Mako, Bolin, and Asami accompany them instead on Varrick’s battleship.
After leaving Jinora’s spiritless body in Katara’s care, Korra and her friends attempt to break through the Northern defenses in order to reach the Southern spirit portal. Although initially unsuccessful, they manage to enter the Spirit World, where Bumi, Kya, and Tenzin leave to find Jinora’s spirit, while Mako and Bolin hold back Unalaq in order to give Korra the time to close the portal. However, when Harmonic Convergence starts, Korra had not yet managed to close the portal and Vaatu manages to break free from his prison inside the Tree of time.
Legend of Korra
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): After successfully arriving in the Spirit World, Korra and Jinora get separated. Jinora ends up at Wan Shi Tong’s Library, where she is captured by Unalaq. Korra finds herself in a dark forest as a four-year-old, where she encounters Iroh’s spirit. With the help of the former Fire Nation general, she helps a lost dragon bird spirit, who in turn helps her to find the spirit portals. There, she is forced by her uncle to open the northern portal, lest he destroy Jinora’s soul.
I’ve been wanting to check out Charles Stross‘ Laundry series for a while, and finally had time to read The Atrocity Archives [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. The tagline is, “Saving the world is Bob Howard’s job. There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” That nicely captures the tone of the book, a blend of Lovecraftian threats from beyond with governmental bureaucracy, complete with budget meetings and petty managerial power struggles.
Bob is more of a hacker geek than a superhero, and it works well, giving us a reluctant hero who favors brains over brawn. (I have a fondness for that type.) There’s plenty of action, and there were times I found myself struggling to keep up with the plot twists and revelations … fortunately, Bob was struggling right along with me. He’s a sympathetic character, and a good introduction into the world of magic-wielding government spooks and computer-powered rituals.
As for the plot itself, well … Bob gets sent on his first field mission, seeking out a potential contact named “Mo” in the U.S. From there, we get magic terrorists, supernatural (and really nasty) Nazi technology, a bit of romance, and the impending end of the
It’s quick-paced, with lots of good historical background, a fun hero, and a dry sense of humor that works well to balance out the occasional horrific scenes.
The book also includes the Hugo Award-Winning novella “The Concrete Jungle,” which continues to blend magic and technology in creative and intelligent ways, talks about the real reason for all of those public cameras in London, and tosses Bob into the middle of another nightmare scenario. I wasn’t sure at first what I thought of the revelation of the true villains, but I decided I liked it. It fit well with the world Stross creates.
Also, Bob’s boss Angleton is a scary, scary man.
Short version – I’ve added The Jennifer Morgue, the second Laundry Files novel, to my wish list.
In a world where children are bound to magical darkbeasts, intelligent companion animals who are supposed to take their children’s sins and faults into themselves, Keara has defied tradition by refusing to ritually kill her darkbeast Caw. This makes her an outcast and a target for the Inquisitors.
We pick up where book one left off, with Keara, Goran, and Taggart on the run with their darkbeasts, searching for the darker community — others who have chosen to spare their darkbeasts and live in exile. But what they find is not what Keara had expected. She feels out of place and … empty. Day-to-day life in hiding isn’t what she had imagined it would be.
I like old Taggart’s response to Keara’s complaints about boredom and routine:
“Most of life is routine. Routine is what keeps us fed, keeps us safe. Keeps us ready for those few, heart-stopping moments when we must fight for what we believe.”
Let’s just say that as I approach my 13th year working for state government to support my family and my writing, that line resonated.
Without spoiling too much, Keara soon finds herself wishing for boredom. We get a story of betrayal and political intrigue and power struggles and relationship drama and more.
It’s a fun and enjoyable read. As with book one, I liked the characters — particularly Caw, with his unapologetic greed for treats and his unwavering parental love for Keara. It was nice to see more of the politics of the world, and the conflict between the Princeps and the Inquisitor Ducis.
I think the title left me expecting more actual rebellion. There’s a lot of interpersonal conflict and growth, and a fair amount of setup for book three, but don’t pick up the book looking for epic battles between darkers and Inquisitors, with armies of ravens and rats and snakes and spiders swarming over enemy soldiers. Which was disappointing, because I kind of wanted to see that. But given where we end things in this book, I imagine the larger scale conflicts are coming soon.
You’ll want to read Darkbeast first, but if you enjoyed that one, you should pick up the sequel and join me in impatiently waiting for Keyes to finish the third book in the trilogy.
Legend of Korra
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): Korra seeks Tenzin’s help to enter the spirit world for the first time.
Legend of Korra
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): When triad activity threatens to put Future Industries out of business, Mako performs an investigation and uncovers a conspiracy.
Legend of Korra
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): Korra attempts to gain support for the Southern Water Tribe from the United Forces, but her request is denied by President Raiko. As a result, she, Bolin, Varrick, and Asami attempt to take matters into their own hands.