Rachel Neumeier's Reviews > Control Point

Control Point by Myke Cole
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Jul 09, 12


Okay, I am not normally inclined to review books unless I like them. I mean, I don’t much care for negative reviews myself, right? And I hate to make someone else feel bad. And what if I run into the author at a convention sometime? Awkward much?

But there are limits, and this book ticked me off because of its wasted potential. Nothing wrong with the concept or the world, but . . .
Well, suppose you read the following first paragraphs of a novel:

The monitor showed a silent video feed from a high school security camera. On it, a young boy stood in a school auditorium. A long-sleeved black T-shirt covered his skinny chest. Silver chains connected rings in his ears, nose, and lips. His hair was a spray of mousse and color.

He was wreathed in a bright ball of fire.

Billowing smoke clouded the camera feed, but Britton could see the boy stretch out a hand, flames jetting past the camera’s range, engulfing fleeing students, who rolled away, beating at their hair and clothing. People were running, screaming.

Beside the boy stood a chubby girl, her dyed-black hair matching her lipstick and eye makeup. She spread her arms.

The flames around the boy pulsed in time with her motions, forming two man-sized peaks of flame. The fire elementals danced among the students, burning as they went. Britton watched as the elementals multiplied – four, then six. Wires sparked as the fire reached the stage. The girl’s magic touched them as well, the electricity forming dancing human shapes, elementals of sizzling energy. They lit among the students, fingertips crackling arcs of dazzling blue lightning.


Okay, your reaction is:

a) Those poor kids are just scared and confused, that’s why they’re burning their classmates alive.

b) My God, a magical Columbine – someone needs to take out those little sociopaths, quick before the body count hits triple digits!

Would it surprise you to know that the protagonist goes for option “a”?

And from the rest of the chapter and, indeed, the book, it’s perfectly clear the author, Myke Cole, also goes for “a”, and expects the reader to as well. So right from the beginning, Cole loses me – I’m having a problem with suspension of disbelief. I am totally out of sympathy with the protagonist, because are you kidding me?

And this problem with implausibly weird reactions go straight through the book from beginning to end.

Like, suppose you want to get somebody who’s manifested a forbidden magical talent to surrender to you so that you can train him to use his talent in a secret war. You know that it’s widely believed that people who manifest talents like this are taken away and killed, but this is actually not true. So, when you have tracked down this guy with his extremely valuable (if forbidden) talent, and he says, “You’re going to kill me anyway,” you respond:

a) “That’s for a court-martial to decide. Get on your knees and put your hands behind your head.”

b) “Oscar, I know that’s what everybody believes, but I swear to you, it’s not true. You’ve already accidentally killed people; you know you’re too dangerous to be out on your own. The truth is, you just need to switch from the regular army to, well, let’s say special forces. You can learn to control your talent. Just settle down and we’ll get you out of this mess, I promise you.”

You’d think “b”, right? Nope, the government guy in charge of bringing Oscar in goes straight for “a”, which results in Oscar running and various assorted mayhem before he’s finally caught.

Not only that, but even though Oscar’s longing for a place to belong and a sense that he’s doing something worthwhile? Every single authority figure goes out of his way to make it clear that to them and to the supernatural branch of the army, Oscar’s just a slave and a tool. Why do all the officers treat their people like this? Even though it is clearly not very practical if what you want is willing, dedicated people working for you? Ummm . . . because they’re nuts?

Also! Can we have characters with layers? Complicated motivations? No, we cannot. The guys who seem like they might be rough around the edges but maybe they have a heart of gold? Nope, they’re just straight-up bad guys. You want to be a good guy? You’re just nice right from the first moment you walk on stage. And also stupid! Spoiler here, so stop here if you care about that:






Honest to God, my dog, with a brain the size of a walnut, could tell that letting the creepy scary evil Scylla loose would be a really bad idea. Like, a really really bad idea. But it never crosses Oscar’s mind that she might possibly slaughter people like cattle, even though, hello, she said she thought of normal people like animals. And he let her loose anyway? Good Lord above, what a shock that things didn’t work out! Oscar is just so STUPID. And vacillating. Like, decide what you want already! And then STICK TO IT!

This book picked up a couple of amazing blurbs, like “Hands down, the best military fantasy I’ve ever read,” and I can only say, seriously? Or is this the only military fantasy you’ve ever read? SHADOW OPS takes place in an technologically advanced alternate contemporary world, and that may make it unique among military fantasies. Can anybody think of any other fantasies which combine attack helicopters and magic and could fall into the same category of military fantasy as Cole’s book?

Because if not, if this is the best military fantasy out there, then I suggest sticking to military SF and heading straight to Tanya Huff’s VALOR series, which, I am not kidding you, is just infinitely better.

I'm giving this one two stars because, while bad, it is not actually unreadable.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Rachel Brown a) Those poor kids are just scared and confused, that’s why they’re burning their classmates alive.

b) My God, a magical Columbine – someone needs to take out those little sociopaths, quick before the body count hits triple digits!


Me too! I also thought it was a particularly implausible reaction for a soldier.

Honest to God, my dog, with a brain the size of a walnut, could tell that letting the creepy scary evil Scylla loose would be a really bad idea. Like, a really really bad idea. But it never crosses Oscar’s mind that she might possibly slaughter people like cattle, even though, hello, she said she thought of normal people like animals.

And also, the last time she was loose, she randomly slaughtered hundreds of people. And Oscar knows that!

Why is she suddenly a better option than his healer buddy, who has already offered to help out?


Rachel Neumeier Exactly! Could NOT believe it!


message 3: by Nate (new) - added it

Nate Brent weeks gave this book a good review but your review is logical and points at exactly some things that would make me put this book down. I will probably not read it, thanks for saving my time.


Rachel Neumeier Brent Weeks' books are so much better! I'm surprised he forgave this one it's many weaknesses.


Roberto well you did a really good job of pointing out the characterization fails of the book. I did read a Japanese novel some time ago with certain similarities that I actually loved (Modern military forces in a medieval fantasy setting) "Gate - Thus the JSDF Fought There" if you have some time maybe you can read.. ok, is not translated.. so the next best think, the manga! http://www.batoto.net/comic/_/comics/...


Rachel Neumeier Thanks for the pointer!


Nikko Lee Thank you for the review. I'm still in the beginning chapters and couldn't put my finger on just what wasn't working about the main characters choices. They do run counter current without enough justification. I'm going to finish the book because I too love the premise and Myke's got talent.


Rachel Neumeier I hope you like it -- I believe there's going to be a sequel, and perhaps it won't have the problems that bothered me with the first.


Kaora These are exactly my thoughts. I haven't finished it but the protagonist is a bit too "goody goody" for me...


Logan I picked it up because authors like Brent Weeks, Peter Brett, and Patrick Rothfuss vouched for it. I hated it. No, I take that back; I didn't hate the book, but I absolutely loathed the protagonist. Books 2 and 3 get better, but this book just frustrated me. Being military myself, I was excited to see how this story would unfold. I wasn't disappointed as the series came to a close, but this book individually was not at all satisfying.


Roberto I read it for the same reasons XD "Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brett" so!? are you vouching for the second book' & so on?


message 12: by anna (new) - rated it 2 stars

anna I totally agree with you on the military's inept handling of well, everything! Like if you're supposed to be fighting a propaganda war, wouldn't you be more subtle about it? Instead of telling your new, very valuable recruits that they're just tools to be used for war, wouldn't you try to brainwash them into thinking they were a force of good? Apparently it worked on Downer, but it's like they didn't even try with Oscar.


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