Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Review - Shadow Ops: Control Point

This isn't Harry Potter magic, muggle. In fact now that I think about it, this is more along the lines of Role Playing Game magic. The combination of magic users and military reminded me a bit of the Rifts table-top RPG, but set in Present Day.

Shadow Ops: Control Point, by Myke Cole, starts right in the thick of the action, as an American military SOC Team attempts to take down two magic users at a school who have just discovered their magical abilities - or "gone latent" as the lingo of the book presents it. These magic users are "selfers" - they're using their magical abilities for themselves and not for their country. The problem for Oscar Britton, a pilot on the mission, is that the two selfers are high school kids and if they don't surrender they'll be killed.

The Supernatural Operations Corp, SOC for short, consists of sorcerers working for the military: pyromancers, necromancers, aeromancers, etc. They've all gone through special training to control their magical abilities and to also focus their magic to suppress other magic users, allowing them to be easily captured. Throughout America, and the world, Selfers are gathering in rebellion against established laws controlling the use of magic for official use only.

After the mission ends, Oscar discovers his own magic powers and instead of reporting himself, runs. He's quickly caught again, and sent to a special training camp for civilian and military magic users on contract to the government where he has to decide to run again or become part of a team using their magic abilities for the country.

Shadow Ops presents a near-future America, and world, where magic has suddenly appeared and no one really knows what to do about. The politicians enact laws for things they don't understand and the military conducts operations against citizens on American soil. It's kinda scary presenting a world like that. The politics don't play a major role, though, more of a background motivation for the on-going story.

As I read this book, I sympathized with Oscar's internal ethical conflict: should he use his new powers against civilians and others because they represent a clear and present danger to the rest of the country? Or should he run, and not let others control his power. It all harkens back to Stan Lee, "With great power comes great responsibility." Not only does Oscar Britton have to decide what to do, but he's surrounded by people he's beginning to care for, and others he wants to help - his decisions will have ramifications for those people as well.

The magic in Shadow Ops covered all the bases: shooting lightning bolts or flames, healing, necromancy, elementals, and more. There was no wand-waving or spell shouting. The description of the action, magic and traditional, was exciting and worked well. It didn't occur to me while I was reading it, which is a good thing, but looking back the magic system seems lifted right out of a role playing game. It worked very well within the structure of the story though, and didn't seem at all like I was reading game-play.

There's just something fun reading about a covert military team shooting bullets from a gun with one hand and shooting lightning from the other hand.

Shadow Ops: Control Point, by Myke Cole, was provided to me by the publisher for review, is the first in a series, and is due to be published on January 31, 2012.

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