I knew I was going to like this book. The author did such a good job on the first in this series, "Control Point," that I was already along for the riI knew I was going to like this book. The author did such a good job on the first in this series, "Control Point," that I was already along for the ride -- but I wondered, would my love of the story be tinged with a little disappointment that it didn't quite live up to the first book?
Nope. I had a lot of good things to say about the first book, but the second easily surpasses it.
We have a new character in Col. Bookbinder that it's hard not to love and root for from the beginning, and Oscar Britton has matured in a way that makes him considerably easier to read about without wanting to slap him around. He's weaponized his idealism in a less selfish way, and his new problems feel more like accidents of fate rather than self-inflicted injuries. You like him, and you root for him without wincing quite as ofter.
There's some great character development for others as well; I especially liked the fact Harlequin grew past duty and righteousness to wrestle with a big decision near the end of the book. (I'm looking forward to seeing what happens between him and Swift.)
The world building also gets deeper and more interesting. More creatures and cultures in the Source Plane (and a quest!), more politics and twists in the Home Plane. Plenty of material to set the stage for a great third installment!...more
I've wanted to read this book for awhile now. I've found Myke Coles's brand of gruff, comedic interplay with other authors that I respect hilarious viI've wanted to read this book for awhile now. I've found Myke Coles's brand of gruff, comedic interplay with other authors that I respect hilarious via social media – so I was looking forward to digging into his fiction. At the same time I was mildly worried that I wouldn't like it, and that it wouldn't connect; as a veteran, reading military fiction is always a risk. It's just too easy to nitpick terminology and tone, and most writers of military fiction seem to turn it into an opportunity to prove their machoism bone fides.
What I ended up reading was something a lot more nuanced than I expected. I'm still not sure what I think about the protagonist, who isn't your typical military fiction demigod. He's deeply flawed; he obviously has a strong moral core, but he expresses it in a way that regularly makes you want to yell at him for being an idiot, and then (just a few minutes later) cheer him on for doing the right thing. At periods throughout the book, he's a sap, a victim dealing with an unimaginable burden, a patsy, a hero, a killer, a savior, and a navel-gazing fool. A shallow, one-dimensional protagonist he is not.
I'm not going to throw in spoilers about the book's plot, but if you're looking for a clear good guy vs bad guy narrative, this isn't it. I'm not sure if I've ever flipped between disgust at a character's actions and respect for how he handles the fallout as quickly as I did at the end of this book.
As for the wider, real-world questions this type of fiction often brings up: This book isn't a patriotic ode, nor is it an anti-governmental screed. Myke Cole's thoughtful, nuanced view of the appropriate use of military force and the importance of individual freedoms really shines through in the book. I recommend it to anyone who spends time thinking about the fraught moral landscape soldiers have to deal with the moment they think beyond the orders they're given.