1 December, 2022

LitStack Rec: I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place & Siege Line

Siege Line, by Myke Cole

For those who may not consider themselves a likely audience for military fantasy/sci-fi, I give to you the works of Myke Cole. A Coast Guard veteran who has also worked in military intelligence and law enforcement, his Reawakening trilogy (the prequel to his well-received Shadow Ops series) is authentic while also being humane.

The central character in the Awakening trilogy is US Navy Seal James Schweitzer, killed in what we believe is a covert action gone bad and re-animated through pairing his enhanced body with the spirit of an ancient, bloodthirsty warrior.  In abstract it sounds fantastical; in Myke Cole’s capable hands, it is harrowing, absorbing, and queasily feasible.

In the first book of the trilogy, Gemini Cell, we are introduced to Schweitzer, his family, his resolve, and the secret government organization that wants to control him. Javelin Rain, the second book, finds Jim is on the run with his wife and young son as the threat he poses if he exposes the Gemini Cell project is immense. In Siege Line, Jim takes on the burden of ensuring the end of Gemini Cell altogether.

I started reading Siege Line with a bit of trepidation: I had been totally entranced by Gemini Cell, but found Javelin Rain to be too brutal for my taste (well written and totally appropriate, though; admittedly by tastes lean squarely in the candy-ass range). But Myke Cole surprised me beyond hopes – he managed to set up my expectations, and then take me in a totally different direction that was unconventional and eventually totally satisfying. What he did with the character of Jim Schweitzer was brave, and made me even more of a fan than I was before.

But it isn’t just Jim who gets amaze-balls treatment. The secondary lead in Siege Line is a female indigenous Canadian sheriff whose character has no pandering to get in her way, and she’s incredibly strong, even in (perhaps because of) her internal vulnerabilities. Additionally, the people with the political power in this novel are not all corrupt or shortsighted; many of them share the burden of the action – literally. And much of the story takes place in a small, remote environment, which ratchets up the tension without having to resort to specter of mass destruction; less body count, and more impact for what does occur. Plus, one of the major reveals was, at least to me, totally unexpected yet incredibly effective.

Bottom line, Siege Line is an effective and brilliant capstone to a highly entertaining trilogy, and Myke Cole has cemented himself as one of those authors who I will seek out regardless of subject matter due to his literary diversity and a willingness to go where his characters need to go rather than in the direction of convention or expectation.  All three books of The Awakening trilogy- even the one that handed me my candy-ass on a platter – are highly, highly recommended.

—Sharon Browning