#REVIEW: Sixteenth Watch, by Myke Cole

Interesting phenomenon: I just looked at the Monthly Reads post I put up yesterday and realized that of the last fourteen books I’ve read (including A Memory of Empire, which I just started yesterday and isn’t in the pile,) all but three have featured main characters who were women. That’s certainly not something I did intentionally, although I suspect the 52 books by women of color series is skewing the numbers slightly, it doesn’t account for that level of disparity. And while I’m not going to name the specific books, several of the last half-dozen or so books I’ve read have featured MCs who consistently made terrible, horrible, no-good-very-bad decisions all the time, to the point where I noticed the trend, which was starting to get seriously on my nerves.

I’ve read one Myke Cole series in the past: the excellent Sacred Throne trilogy, which also happens to feature a female main character, but my understanding is that he’s always been primarily a military sci-fi guy, and Sixteenth Watch is a return to form. It’s another one of those books where I feel like I should just be able to state the premise and then get out of the way while you go buy it: it’s about the Coast Guard.

I’m waiting.

Wait, you’re not running. What, you don’t want to read a book about the Coast Guard?

Okay, it’s about the Coast Guard on the moon.

(Dodges the trampling horde)

The MC of this book is Admiral Jane Oliver, a lifelong Coastie (which is a word I’d never seen before, and I like it) who is sent to the America-controlled portion of the Moon to take charge of the Coast Guard’s contingent there, and along the way to train a group of soldiers in catching, breaking into and subduing enemy ships so that they can win a game show.

(That’s the “roll with it” part of the review; trust me, it makes more sense in context, which I don’t plan on explaining because this way is more fun.)

Oh, and along the way it would be cool if she was able to keep lunar border tensions between China and the US from erupting into a hot war, which would no doubt spill back down onto Earth. So this is both a book with a lot of action to it (and enough military acronyms that there’s a glossary in the back, which was absolutely necessary at several points) and a fair amount of politics as well, as Oliver both has to navigate several tense moments with the Chinese as well as keep the Navy and Marines out of her jurisdiction and off her back. Oliver is smart enough and good enough at what she does that she felt like a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of what I’ve been reading lately, but she’s not perfect and the upper brass in the book is only tentatively on her side, so there’s conflict all over the place and on all sorts of different levels.

There’s a lot made of the fact that the Coast Guard is the only branch of the military whose job is to save lives rather than fight wars, which is a really interesting perspective for the book to take, and one I’ve not seen previously in military science fiction. I already knew Cole was a good writer, but seeing him back in his wheelhouse was a really good time, and I was up way too late the other night finishing this one off.

I realized at about the 2/3 mark of the book that we actually have something called the Space Force now, and I sent Cole a tweet asking him about it:

One wonders if there will ever be any books written about the Space Force before the next president gets around to disbanding them.

3:49 PM (How the HELL is it nearly four already?) Saturday, May 2: 1,121,414 confirmed cases and 65,908 dead Americans. The world is about to pass the quarter-million dead mark.