GEMINI CELL by Myke Cole

GEMINI CELL is the rare military action thriller that isn’t defined by the action or the plot. Instead, Myke Cole’s fourth book is all about the characters, and the relationships that define each of them.

Jim Schweitzer is a U.S. Navy SEAL whose team conducts covert missions around the world, relying on their unity and training to return home again. But when Jim and his team see something they were never meant to see, Jim’s dangerous work life follows him home. This time, the odds are stacked too high against Jim, and he dies trying to defend his family.

But everything changes when Jim is resurrected with a bloodthirsty jinn named Ninip trapped inside his body alongside him, forcing him to constantly battle for control of his own limbs. Now, Jim is asked to continue serving his country as part of a top-secret military unit called Gemini Cell while trying to learn more about those who attacked him and his family.

Cole’s focus on his characters and his ability to define those characters by their relationships with one another make this his best book yet.┬áThe relationship between Jim and his wife Sarah drives the story, and while this book seems like a strange story to be driven by romance, Cole does an excellent job of making this relationship between two very different adults believable. Cole doesn’t shy away from the challenges of their relationship, but somehow he manages to make it believable. Slowly, over the course of the entire novel, we begin to understand the bond between these two in a way that feels very real.

Jim and Sarah don’t mark the only relationship in the book though. Jim’s constant battle against Ninip provides us another insight into Jim and how he views himself as a warrior. Whereas Ninip is driven by rage and a desire to kill everything around him, Jim views himself as an artist, someone who has taken his skill set and his training and combined the two to create a fluid, professional artistry. The conversations between the two highlight their differences and help the reader come to understand Jim’s passion for what he does.

At the same time, Jim’s changing relationship with the military lurks in the background. Whereas he fully trusted in his comrades and commanders when he was alive, Jim is less trusting once he’s dead. As the story moves forward, he comes to realize that the military isn’t may not be telling him everything, both about his own abilities and the fate of his family.

None of the characters — Jim, Sarah, Jim’s military friends — are perfect, and while we always talk about the importance of characters with flaws, Cole really seems to have this down, creating imperfections in his characters that help define who they are and ultimately give them strength. For a story whose main character is an undead warrior fighting other magic users on behalf of the U.S. Special Forces, there’s an awful lot of humanity packed into each character, and it grounds the story in a way that makes the supernatural elements feel possible.