I’m not a fan of military fiction.
I don’t completely dismiss it, mind you — Starship Troopers, The Forever War and, in the lit-fic category, Going After Cacciato, are some of my favorite books. It’s just that endless lists of munitions and weapon specs that defined the recent works I’ve read leave me cold. I’m more interested in character and plot than encyclopedic knowledge.
But after seeing Myke Cole on a couple panels at Phoenix Comicon I became interested in checking out his work. It didn’t seem like my flavor, but I was fascinated enough by his attitudes and opinions that I decided to give his latest book a try.
So I’m especially happy that he did not fall into that pattern of gun/military fetishism that so turned me off from other authors. Instead he crafted a beautiful story about honor, loyalty, humanity and love.
Gemini Cell is the fourth book in Cole’s “Shadow Ops” universe, set in an America after “The Great Reawakening”, a time when magic has been rediscovered and militarized by the government. But you don’t need to be familiar with his previous work to dive into this novel.
Set years before his initial trilogy, just after magic has returned to the world, Gemini Cell follows Jim Schweitzer, a Navy SEAL and consummate professional soldier. After one of his black ops missions goes bad, Schweitzer is killed in his home, defending his wife and family.
But in this world of newly-discovered magic, Schweitzer is, as Miracle Max said, only mostly dead. Nah, he’s all the way dead, he’s just been reanimated by a tribal sorcerer and spiritually joined with an ages-old jinn by a secret government program, the Gemini Cell.The government seeks to turn Schweitzer into the ultimate warrior, joining the raw fury of the ancient demon, known as Ninip, with Cole’s disciplined training.
And in many ways they succeed, Schweitzer is a killing machine, but soon his principles and sense of justic start getting in the way of Ninip’s chaotic fury. Plus he starts asking questions about the fate of his wife and son, leading to a climactic confrontation that exposes motives behind the Gemini Cell, as well as the true source of Schweitzer’s power.
Cole’s extensive experience in the military informs his text, giving an authenticity to his jargon and protocol descriptions. And he kept the fight sequences taut and, surprisingly, infrequent. Rather, most of the book deals with Schweitzer’s struggles to retain his humanity and control the awesome power at his disposal.
In many ways the story reminded me of comic legend Alan Moore’s groundbreaking early issues of Swamp Thing. After spending 20 years believing he was a man transformed into a plant, Swamp Thing learns he is, in fact, a plant with the memories of a man. This realization sends him on a destructive path, both inwardly and outwardly, before he is able to reaffirm his humanity and reconcile it with his monstrous exterior.
And that is Schweitzer’s journey in Gemini Cell. That journey does leave several questions though, like what exactly was the goal of the resurrection program? Were Schweitzer’s handlers looking to create a super-soldier, or just a mindless killer? And what will happen next?
Oh well, that’s what sequels are for. And I’m already looking forward to the next installment of this new “Shadow Ops” trilogy, titled Javelin Rain.
— Michael Senft