Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Two Debuts Reviewed: Myke Cole & John R. Fultz

Reviews of two debut novels hit SFFWorld, as usual, one review from Mark and the other from me. I liked the book I reviewed and well…Mark read the book he reviewed. Let’s start with the good, OK?

Myke Cole’s Shadow OPS: Control Point is a mash-up of Military Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Fantasy tropes that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about long after I finished the novel. I’ll be posting an interview I conducted with Myke in about a week.

Superficially, Shadow OPS: Control Point may seem like just another military science fiction novel, with some of new ingredients. Cole is a better writer and storyteller than that; sure he mixes Urban Fantasy elements into the equation, but deeper themes are woven into the narrative. One of those, and perhaps it is punctuated by Oscar’s black skin color (which is mentioned in passing about 1/3 into the narrative), is the notion that people who manifest in ‘forbidden schools’ and latent people are treated as slaves to the military and government; tools of those in power and not really people at all. Oscar’s internal conflict about this issues stems for a lot of things – for starters, he’s the thing he once hunted. Another is that his whole life was the military and now that’s gone, he isn’t sure what kind of life he can have.

Told in a third person perspective, Cole still conveys the stress and conflict Britton experiences both physically and mentally in a supremely believable fashion. At times I found myself sympathizing with Oscar’s plight, other times, I wanted to whack him upside the head and shout “Just go with it!” It proved frustrating at times, but I’d almost say in a car-wreck kind of way because I wanted to see if Oscar would actually do what he’s told or continue to rebel. I don’t know if this is what Cole intended, but also found myself siding with characters that were likely set out as antagonists – specifically legally empowered magic practitioner Harlequin who was once part of Oscar’s team and then attempted to secure Oscar once he manifested. By novel’s end, the path on which Cole was placing Oscar became more evident and some of his actions that felt a bit frustrating came to a head in a way that made sense for the next steps on his journey.

Mark dove in headfirst to a Heroic Fantasy debut novel being published amidst great fanfare from the fine folks at Orbit, : Seven Princes edited by John R. Fultz:

The plot is basically The Magnificent Seven (or Battle Beyond the Stars, if you prefer), but using Princes instead of cowboys. Prince D’zan’s father, King Trimesqua, is slain by an army of the undead resurrected by Elhathym, a mysterious stranger who claims he has come back to reclaim the court of Yaskatha.

The only survivors of the massacre, D’zan and his bodyguard Olthalcus escape and try to enlist support and so reclaim the village kingdom. He enlists six other cowboys Princes to his cause. The duo travel to New Udurum to seek help from The Princes of Uurz – Tyro, the natural leader, and Lyrilan, the scholar - who pledge their support. Travelling to seek help from the Giant King Vod, they find that the King has abdicated, leaving the Kingdom in charge of his Queen, Shaira, with the help of their sons Fangodrel, Tadarus and Vireon, and daughter Sharadza. Lastly, Andoses, heir to the throne of Shar Dni, makes up the seventh. Together they go, in order to defeat the evil sorcerer and get D’zan back to where he rightfully belongs. Sharadza goes off to learn sorcery and be a witch in order to help.

I really wanted to like this one. Sadly, in the end I was disappointed, but in my opinion it’s not as bad as some would have it. The pace is a little uneven, but it moves along at a fair clip. It’s solidly written, but, in the end, commits the sin of being quite interchangeable with other Fantasy books out there.


Justin said...

Looks like you guys saw the same things I did. Shame about 7 Princes, like Mark, I really wanted to like it.

RobB said...

I wanted to like the book, too. Sadly, it didn't work enough for me to even finish.