ARC Review: Gemini Cell

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From Goodreads:

Gemini Cell takes place in the SHADOW OPS universe, but is a prequel, taking place many years before the events in CONTROL POINT.

Myke Cole continues to blow the military fantasy genre wide open with an all-new epic adventure in his highly acclaimed Shadow Ops universe—set in the early days of the Great Reawakening, when magic first returns to the world and order begins to unravel…

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself—and his family—in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

It should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty—as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realizes his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark—especially about the fates of his wife and son…

Myke Cole presents his online persona as a completely serious, anti-fun person. He also presents himself as a very morally straight man. He’s a member of the Coast Guard (I think), and is always seen haranguing people about the importance of trigger discipline. This may have affected my expectations for his books, giving me the perception that Gemini Cell would be a straightforward military by the numbers novel, even though I had already read the first of his Shadow Ops books, Control Point, and knew it was not like that.

He happily disabused me of this notion within the first handful of pages of Gemini Cell, which starts with a bang. Several bangs, in fact, and characters who make very questionable decisions, characters who are not, in any way, perfect ideals. When I picked up the book, I wasn’t able to stop until probably 60-70 pages in, more than I had anticipated being able to read. It was a pleasant surprise, and the rest of the book was just as gripping, not giving me a single boring moment to complain about.

The magic system here is very interesting. Myke has shown us the same world before, in the Shadow Ops series. Given that the Shadow Ops series is set after Gemini Cell, this could easily have turned out to be nothing more than a money-grab prequel… But it is much more than that. It gives us a glimpse of magic that is utterly different than that in the Shadow Ops series, and takes us on a journey with a completely different set of characters. The magic, a form of necromancy, gives Jim not only incredible powers that are amazing to read, but also a very interesting internal battle, for the spirit that inhabits his body is constantly fighting him for control of it. It provides an interesting dual perspective, internal and external, and asks more questions than it answers. Also, since this story is so different from the Shadow Ops series, they can be read in either order, with minimal, if any, spoilers.

Jim’s wife, Sarah, could easily have become an accessory, a side character placed in the story solely to give Jim a mental anchor and provide conflict. But she isn’t, and Sarah becomes almost as fully fleshed out and engrossing as Jim himself. Myke did a fantastic job with her, and with the couple’s child, Patrick. Her actions, while some of them are ones you would want to say that you would never do yourself, are understandable given the extreme situations she is placed in.

I should stop here and note that there is a strong content warning on this book. Not only is there bloody, brutal, morally disgusting violence, there is also sex. However, this is not in the book as fanservice, nor is it there simply to make the novel more raunchy and sell copies. It’s there, every time, to advance the plot of the novel and show and shape the characters. It’s one of the few times where I am not complaining about the amount of sex in the book, though generally I find even once to be excessive.

Perhaps my biggest complaint with the novel is Steven’s storyline. Given the things he did, and how his story ended, I am truly not sure why we had the viewpoints from him that we did. That is not to say that they were boring; rather, I was expecting them to go somewhere and have an impact and they… didn’t.

If you’re looking for a satisfying, complete story, Gemini Cell is not the book for you. While it has plenty of action and a very intense, game-changing ending, it is unabashedly the first part of a much larger story, one that I will be continuing to enjoy as soon as I can get my hands on a copy of Javelin Rain, which Myke is currently in the process of editing. I would suggest reading the Shadow Ops series instead, as it is a completed trilogy, though I have not personally finished them. I read the first book, Control Point and enjoyed it, and I own the entire trilogy. I have bumped them up considerably on my TBR after reading Gemini Cell.

The ending of Gemini Cell will surprise you. It may not be a Sanderson-type twist, but I thought through the second half of the novel that I knew who the characters were and where they were going, and I was very wrong. There are several revelations near the end that will leave you clamoring for Javelin Rain, but Gemini Cell is certainly entertaining and powerful enough to be a satisfying read on its own.

In summary, Gemini Cell is an intense, military sci-fi novel with a sex/violence content warning that follows some amazingly nuanced morally grey characters though the re-emergence of magic into the world, and has a gripping, twisty ending that begs for the sequel, which I am glad is already in progress. Five of Five stars, and highly recommended if you can handle the intensity.

My reading progress:

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Myke’s website

Gemini Cell on Goodreads

Gemini Cell on Amazon

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