After reading the first book in Myke Cole’s SHADOW OPS series, I was excited about the series as a whole, but I had some serious concerns about what I referred to as the “Britton problem.” Fortunately, Cole addressed that problem with a compelling new character and far less focus on Britton — changes that made FORTRESS FRONTIER a very enjoyable read.

This book, the second in the series, begins with Alan Bookbinder, a pencil-pushing military bureaucrat who is very much aware of the fact that many of the men and women he works with are combat veterans while he has spent his entire career handling the paperwork that makes certain soldiers have the supplies they need to succeed. He sounds boring, and perhaps he is when he starts out, but it’s exciting to see the changes in Bookbinder’s confidence and leadership abilities as the book moves forward.

In contrast, we were introduced to Oscar Britton in CONTROL POINT in the midst of a high-stress mission that turned into a firefight. It seemed as though we were meeting a decisive military leader capable with the physical and mental strength to be an inspiring protagonist, but as the book continued, Britton’s indecisiveness and occasionally blatant stupidity grew frustrating. Bookbinder, on the other hand, isn’t Britton’s physical equal, but he’s committed to his family and the men he serves, and that lends him a strength that Britton has only intermittently managed to this point in the series. At the end of the day, Bookbinder was far easier for me to root for and a far more enjoyable character for me to follow.

Britton isn’t entirely absent in this book, and when he does show up he seems to be handled a bit better than he was in CONTROL POINT, though he’s still not nearly as compelling as many of the characters surrounding him. Cole continues to create interesting supporting personalities, and we’re starting to get a better feel for who the heroes and villains will be moving forward. Cole introduces a new alien race cooperating with the Indian government that exposes us to not only another race, but also how other governments outside the United States are interacting with the Source in different ways. It lends depth and realism to the world, and serves as a demonstration of Cole’s maturation as an author.

It’s exciting to see Cole get stronger from his first book to the second, and I’m looking forward to reading BREACH ZONE when it comes out next year.

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