It’s amazing how a main character can spoil a book. Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier is the second book in the SHADOW OPS series by Myke Cole. I didn’t like the first book, Control Point, very well because I loathed Oscar Britton, the main character. He offended my pride as a soldier. Yet I decided to try the second book and this time I have to give Myke Cole some real credit for giving me a reason not to hate his SHADOW OPS series…. his name is Alan Bookbinder.
Back in a 21st Century world that has experienced the return of magic, the US Army continues to run pretty much like it always has. There are operators and paper pushers and seldom is a Soldier good at both. COL Alan Bookbinder is a first rate, hard core Excel spreadsheet Ranger! For those of you who don’t speak Army, that’s basically saying that he’s a super stud in the office and worthless outside it. Bookbinder is a family man, a hard working bureaucrat with a sense of entitlement due to his high rank and he is a believer is working with the system instead of fighting it. Unlike Oscar Britton, whose arrogance gets people killed, Alan Bookbinder reacts just like he should when he develops latent magic. His life goes to hell as a result, but he does the right thing.
Back on the Source Plane, the aftershocks of Britton’s decision to free the sorceress Scylla (a negramancer whose powers decay things at an exponentially advanced rate) and basically take his team out of FOB Frontier are still ugly. People died because Britton was unwilling to follow orders he didn’t agree with and his continued resistance just made things worse. Some of Britton’s reasoning makes sense, but the second and third order effects of his choice to disobey continues to cause loyal servicemen and women die. (Yes, I hate Oscar Britton.) COL Bookbinder is summarily assigned to FOB Frontier before Britton’s mutiny and is left in the aftermath to try to grow beyond being a mere paper pusher to being a leader who can keep the men and women who depend on him alive.
I really liked Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier in spite of the character Oscar Britton. Myke Cole really does a great job of giving the reader some strong themes to cope with. Britton is an arrogant ass, Bookbinder has weaknesses and struggles to rise up to the position he holds, and it makes for great reading. I loved the world building that Cole does and how he uses different races and cultures to force the characters to evolve and grow. In the end, the reason that I am now so excited about this series after reading Fortress Frontier is that Cole gave me a character who I can like even with his flaws. It makes all the difference!