Myke Cole very quickly established himself on my list of “must read” authors when I read his first offering, Shadow Ops: Control Point. It took just that one book for me to know I’d want to read everything he wrote from that point forward. Soon I read the two books that followed Control Point and was waiting anxiously for Gemini Cell to be available. As it turns out, I was lucky enough to snag an advance copy of the book, and then proceeded to horribly drop the ball by not getting this review written when I originally wanted.
For that, I apologize to Myke Cole, as I should have been more on top of things.
However, I am here now, and want to make it very clear that Gemini Cell is hands-down Myke Cole’s most well-written novel to date. As many other reviewers and authors alike have made sure to mention, Myke Cole is not satisfied with maintaining the status quo when it comes to his writing. Rather, he forges ahead in leaps and bounds with each successive book, carving for himself a very impressive reputation in the fledgling, but strong military fantasy playground.
Now, if you have read the Shadow Ops books previously, you are going to feel very much at home with what Myke Cole is doing in Gemini Cell. If you haven’t read those books, don’t worry, Gemini Cell puts itself forth as potentially being the best place to introduce yourself to Myke Cole as an author. The book serves as a prequel of sorts to the other Shadow Ops books by taking place many years ahead of the others at a time when individuals with magical powers were just starting to make their presence known and the government had no really good idea on how to handle the situation.
The premise of Gemini Cell is that Jim Schweitzer, a very successful and talented Special Ops soldier is sent on a mission where the team is not very well-informed as to the target. The mission quickly goes awry and Jim sees some things that he doesn’t quite understand. Soon enough, his home is invaded by a separate group of soldiers and he dies as a result. At least until the government entity known as Gemini Cell revives him from death by forcing an evil Jinn to take residence inside. Jim discovers himself in a fight for his humanity as the Jinn attempts to take control at every opportunity. Jim must learn to control the powerful urges and abilities the Jinn provides while at the same time satisfying his government handlers that he isn’t a danger to them or society. It’s a very narrow road to navigate and most of the time it seems like Jim is chasing a moving target.
Beyond all of the usual action trappings are characters who really feel like they are sincere. A lot of books in the science fiction and fantasy genres, especially those with a more military slant tend to have characters that feel like they are made with very little thought to how a real person would respond. Not so in Gemini Cell. At its core this story is about a soldier experiencing the most dramatic form of PTSD you can imagine. He was murdered in front of his wife and child, inhabited by an evil entity, and brought back to life as what can only be described as a super-powered zombie soldier. That’s enough to make any actual person take stock of their situation.
One of Myke Cole’s greatest strengths as an author is his ability to make you believe in the characters he puts on the page. Not all of his characters are good guys, but even those are ones you find yourself believing have an actual reason for what they are doing. Jim Schweitzer is Myke Cole’s greatest creation when it comes to character development and in his previous three books he had some pretty impressive characters already.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jim Schweitzer’s wife, Sarah. She does not get nearly as much screen time as Jim in the book for obvious reasons, but she is every bit as carefully written as Jim is when you start looking more deeply. She has her own things to sort out in the wake of what happens to Jim, especially since she is kept in the dark as to his true fate for a majority of the book. I’ve seen or listened to several interviews with Myke Cole about how he approached writing the female perspective for the character of Sarah and I was really impressed by the care and attention he gave her. The book on the whole was better for it and I know find myself wondering if we might get a Myke Cole book at some point with an all-female or at least female-dominant cast. I would be fascinated to see what he could do in that regard.
Gemini Cell is a much grittier, darker book than the previous books published by Myke Cole, but it needs that grit and that darker tone to make it so compelling. If you are looking for something that will take you on a journey a little bit outside what you are used to dealing with in genre fiction, this book is a great place to start.