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Book Review: Gemini Cell by Myke Cole (Updated)

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Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

Gemini Cell

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…

I like to revisit early reviews when a book actually comes out. Both to remind folks that it’s available and to reconsider my thoughts. Often my opinion will change after marinating in the stew of words I’ve read since writing about it.

This is certainly true of Myke Cole’s Gemini Cell. I talked about how Cole’s debut was an unlikely pick for me, but I neglected to mention that his latest might have made me a lifelong fan. Cole writes modern military fantasy, so instead of swords and sorcery it’s more AR-15s and aeromancy.

That book takes place in a world where magic is common knowledge and strictly regulated while this one, a prequel, takes place at the beginning of The Great Reawakening of magic. The government and the military are only beginning to explore the possibilities and dangers of the supernatural. For fans, Gemini Cell offers a peek into the past and a new school of magic.

For the unfamiliar it offers a unique take on the zombie phenomenon in a complex fully realized setting. Don’t worry, this isn’t a prequel that’s simply laying pipe for the existing story. It’s a self contained, thrilling adventure story that highlights Cole’s strengths. I could talk about authentic descriptions of military set pieces or body horror, but that’s not what kept me interested.

Instead, I’ll focus on the humanity and relatability of the characters. Gemini Cell is a novel with an animated corpse protagonist and the reader roots for him, struggles with him, questions him, and empathizes with him. This is how Myke Cole hooks you. With a mixture of humor and a skillful hand with parallels – Schweitzer experiences a literal spiritual struggle mirrored by the figurative struggle of his best friend – he draws you into the web of relationships within the narrative. You come to understand even the ancillary characters as he tugs gently on the strands that link these people together. They are who they are because of the people around them.

As someone who doesn’t fetishize the military, I’m continually surprised by Cole’s facility for making me understand the motivations behind specific actors within it and its broader mandate. Beyond that, Gemini Cell presents a spectrum of PTSD with incredible compassion and fidelity.

 

I didn’t go into this initially, because it can be a tricky subject. Cole has written on what PTSD is and who, in the genre, gets it right. Both of those are great posts, well worth reading even if you’ll never pick up a military fantasy novel. Though you might consider it. There’s a lot  of heart behind the shear thickening liquid and kevlar, here.

And magic. And explosions. And some stone cold SEAL action.

Recommended for fans of Survival Research Labs, Neco z Alenky, and Earth-2149.

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