I’ve been a big fan of Myke Cole’s novels for a while now - his last book, Gemini Cell, was a particularly good blend of zombie, military and romance genres. His latest, Javelin Rain, isn’t quite so innovative, but it carries the momentum of the series forward nicely.
At the end of Gemini Cell, former Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer was reanimated as part of a covert military unit that sent similar soldiers whose talents were useful even after death. Schweitzer had joined the program only after he was told that his young son and wife had been killed. When that turned out not to be the case, he escaped and went on a desperate chase to rejoin his family.
The first book in the new sub-trilogy of Cole’s Shadow Ops universe was a good romance, but only the start of the story. In Javelin Rain, he still has to contend with the fact that his former comrades are after him, with his wife Sarah and son Patrick in tow.
As Cole noted in our interview with him last week, this novel focuses on one particular aspect of military life: the trauma of warfare:
This works particularly well in this novel: Schweitzer is permanently marked by his service and situation, and reconnecting with Sarah and Patrick are incredibly difficult. Cole makes this literal for the soldier: his son is afraid of the monster that his father appears to be, while his wife tries to adapt to the changes that have taken place.
Schweitzer, obviously, isn’t like most veterans: for all practical purposes, he’s a zombie with all the training and experience of a Navy SEAL, and as he and his family go on the run, that training kicks in.
On the other side of the spectrum, the personnel of Gemini Cell, Doctor Eldredge and Afghani sorcerer Jawid are desperately working to bring back Schweitzer: he’s the one success that they’ve had in the program. The other Gemini Cell assets are called ‘Golds’, essentially bloodthirsty, insane Jinn inhabiting dead bodies, used only as a last resort. In the last book, Schweitzer was able to cast out the Jinn inhabiting his body, and they want to replicate that, bringing in an agent from another cell, Dadou Alva, to help figure out the problem, and experiment further.
As Schweitzer and family flees, and Gemini Cell pursues, the former soldier finds himself placed in a position that he never thought that he’d be part of: protecting his family from the government that he once served.
Javelin Rain is very much a middle novel of a series, coming off of the first installment of the trilogy, and leading up to the concluding volume. These are always the hardest books to pull off, but Cole does it spectacularly. This story rockets from point to point, ratcheting up the action as things go from pretty bad to worst-case-scenario.
Schweitzer is a competent hero who finds himself struggling when he finds Sarah: on the battlefield, he knew exactly what was needed. At home, waging war is much harder to accomplish.
Cole populates his novel with a whole range of interesting characters, from Sarah to Dadou, while some characters, such as Eldredge, get a bit more depth from the last novel.
I spoke with Cole a couple of years ago, where he expressed a desire to avoid churning out novel after novel following the same moody character for twenty volumes. It could be a popular series - Cole’s writing is certainly good enough to warrant that - but he wouldn’t enjoy doing it. As a result, each installment feels reasonably different from one another, and in particular, this Gemini Cell arc could be a completely different series altogether. Like its predecessor, Javelin Rain feels like a more personal story than the first three, but Cole seems to have different goals with this trilogy.
To wit, he’s exploring some new facets of this particular world. Where Control Point, Fortress Frontier and Breach Zone approached the question: “what happens when magic appears in our world, realistically?”, this new series asks: “what impact will the introduction of magic have on these characters and the world?”
This is a middle novel, and Cole’s clearly playing towards a pretty resounding conclusion, particularly around the folks behind the whole Gemini Cell operation, and if Javelin Rain is any indication, it’ll be a fun ride.
Javelin Rain is now out from Ace Books.