This week's New York Times Bestsellers (February 10th)

In hardcover:

Stephen King's The Institute is up one position, ending the week at number 13. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Outsider is down two spots, finishing the week at number 4 (trade paperback).

Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish returns at number 7.

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is down three positions, ending the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

Sixteenth Watch

If you've been been a fan of the Hotlist for some time, you have heard me complain that it often feels as though Myke Cole remains one of the genre's best-kept secrets. Not everyone is a military fantasy fan, true, yet his first two series are as accessible as they are captivating. Indeed, the Shadow Ops and the Gemini Cell trilogies were fun, intelligent, action-packed, and entertaining reads. From the get-go, you could tell that Cole would become one of speculative fiction's brightest new voices. And he did. In this house at least. Unfortunately, following Siege Line Ace and Headline did not renew the series and the Shadow Ops sequence came to an abrupt end.

I remember corresponding with the author at the time and Cole truly believed that his writing career was over. Thankfully, he was wrong and the Sacred Throne trilogy was published by the folks at More novelette than novels, you probably recall that I didn't enjoy these books as much as I expected. Everything about the plot was black-and-white, which was a disappointment. Myke Cole habitually writes in shades of gray and there is always more than meets the eye. Trouble is, that new series was thoroughly YA in style and tone. It lacked all the shades of gray and substance that had made Cole one of my favorite SFF authors writing today. It didn't deliver the way Cole's novels normally did. Be that as it may, plenty of readers absolutely loved the Sacred Throne series and the author signed a new book deal with Angry Robot for a science fiction work that would feature the US Coast Guard in space.

And I'm pleased to report that Sixteenth Watch is a return to form for Cole!

Here's the blurb:

The Coast Guard must prevent the first lunar war in history.

A lifelong Search-and-Rescuewoman, Coast Guard Captain Jane Oliver is ready for a peaceful retirement. But when tragedy strikes, Oliver loses her husband and her plans for the future, and finds herself thrust into a role she’s not prepared for. Suddenly at the helm of the Coast Guard’s elite SAR-1 lunar unit, Oliver is the only woman who can prevent the first lunar war in history, a conflict that will surely consume not only the moon, but earth as well.

The premise of the novel is that both China and the USA are endeavoring to secure access to lucrative Helium-3 extraction points on the Moon. Tensions between the two countries have been rising and it appears that an armed conflict is fast becoming inevitable. Given the current situation, the US Navy has been overseeing most of the conflicts along the borders between American and Chinese lunar territories. But with the Navy considering every case as a potential military engagement, some believe that the Coast Guard, a branch of the US armed services but more of a law enforcement agency, could help deescalate those tensions if they patrolled the borders and dealt with smugglers and any other problems. Alas, the American military powers that be don't seem to have much faith in the Coast Guard.

Having served in the military allowed Cole to imbue the Shadow Ops books with a credibility regarding the realism of the use of magic and its ramifications up and down the chain of command. As a US Coast Guard veteran, the author was able to imbue Sixteenth Watch with an authenticity even as he extrapolates on the Guard's future duties in space. I also found it interesting that he was able to throw his reality TV experience into the mix. This book is unlike anything you have read so far. And that's a good thing.

All Shadow Ops installments were character-driven affairs and the same can be said of Sixteenth Watch. Myke Cole always had a knack for creating genuine three-dimensional protagonists with absorbing back stories. Pushing the envelope even more, this time his main protagonist is an "older" Coast Guard female officer approaching retirement. A no-nonsense type of woman, Captain Jane Oliver is put in charge of what can only be called a PR mission whose objective is to persuade politicians and the military brass back on Earth that the Coast Guard is indeed the best branch of American armed services to help secure the country's lunar borders. As was the case with Colonel Alan Bookbinder, the main character from Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier, Cole came up with an unusual protagonist readers are not supposed to root for. And yet, from the start, you can't help but love Oliver. The supporting cast is made up of a diverse group of men and women, but sadly they are not as well-drawn as the only POV character. Other than some sequences with Oliver's Executive Officer and some with General Fraser, I feel that the other members of the cast could have benefited from a bit more depth. I always thought that Cole never did receive the credit he deserves for having a deft human touch which allows him to come up with unexpected emotional scenes packing a powerful punch. And this is certainly the case once again in this novel.

Sixteenth Watch features a lot of military lingo and acronyms. In order to maintain authenticity and not interrupt the narrative, Myke Cole elected not to define those acronyms for the most part and included a glossary at the end of the book. As a reader unfamiliar with such lingo, personally I would have preferred to have most of them defined the first time they appeared instead of having to go back to the glossary time and time again. It's not off-putting per se, but it does slow down the momentum of the novel when you're forced to do so.

As was the case with each new Shadow Ops novel, Myke Cole continues to grow and become more mature as a writer and he's in better control of his craft. As is usually his wont, the author keeps the pace nice and crisp. As political as it is action-packed, Sixteenth Watch is another compelling and entertaining read.

Sixteenth Watch is another military speculative fiction title with heart and soul. Here's to hoping that Myke Cole has plenty more such works in the pipeline.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Stephen R. Donaldson's Seventh Decimate, first volume in The Great God's War trilogy, for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Fire. Wind. Pestilence. Earthquake. Drought. Lightning.

These are the six Decimates, wielded by sorcerers for both good and evil.

But a seventh Decimate exists—the most devastating one of all…

For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war, with sorcerers from both sides brandishing the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemy. But somehow, in some way, the Amikans have discovered and invoked a seventh Decimate, one that strips all lesser sorcery of its power. And now the Bellegerins stand defenseless.

Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, would like to see the world wiped free of sorcerers. But it is he who is charged with finding the repository of all of their knowledge, to find the book of the seventh Decimate—and reverse the fate of his land.

All hope rests with Bifalt. But the legendary library, which may or may not exist, lies beyond an unforgiving desert and treacherous mountains—and beyond the borders of his own experience. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn…

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's The Healer's War: A Fantasy Novel of Vietnam for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Winner of the Nebula Award: “A brutal and beautiful book” that follows the surreal, fantastical journey of a Vietnam War nurse (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

A literary departure for acclaimed fantasy author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, The Healer’s War draws on her personal experience as an army nurse in Da Nang to create a classic novel of the Vietnam War, enriched with a magical, mystical twist.

Lt. Kitty McCulley, a young and inexperienced nurse tossed into a stressful and chaotic situation, is having a difficult time reconciling her duty to help and heal with the indifference and overt racism of some of her colleagues, and with the horrendously damaged soldiers and Vietnamese civilians she encounters during her service at the China Beach medical facilities. She is unexpectedly helped by the mysterious and inexplicable properties of an amulet, given to her by one of her patients, an elderly, dying Vietnamese holy man, which allows her to see other people’s “auras” and to understand more about them as a result. This eventually leads to a strange, almost surrealistic journey through the jungle, accompanied by a one-legged boy and a battle-seasoned but crazed soldier—as McCulley struggles to find herself and a way to survive through the madness and destruction.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (February 3rd)

In hardcover:

William Gibson's Agency debuts at number 10. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Stephen King's The Institute is down three positions, ending the week at number 14. For more info about this title, follow these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Outsider is up two spots, finishing the week at number 2 (trade paperback).

Andrzej Sapkowski's Sword of Destiny debuts at number 9 (trade paperback).

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale maintains its position at number 11 (trade paperback).

James S. A. Corey's Tiamat's Wrath debuts at number 14 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Fonda Lee's Jade City, recent winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In this epic saga of magic and kungfu, four siblings battle rival clans for honor and power in an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

* Aurora Award for Best Novel, winner
* Nebula Award for Best Novel, nominee
* Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, finalist
* World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, finalist

Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for -- and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon's bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone -- even foreigners -- wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones -- from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets -- and of Kekon itself.

Jade City is the first novel in an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.