Control Point is set in an alternate version of the modern world where people are ‘coming up Latent’ – suddenly developing magical powers. The ability to manipulate fire, ice, water, the air, weather, the earth and a lot more are manifesting in everyone from your average guy on the street to foreign diplomats and politicians. And, in the case of Oscar Britton, soldiers. The story follows Britton as he develops the incredibly rare power of Portamancy – the ability to create razor-thin gateways to anywhere he can imagine; a power that the US military see as a major coup. But as unauthorised people with Latent powers – ‘Selfers’ – are usually hunted down for purposes unknown by the US government, Oscar goes on the run and it’s only a matter of time before they catch up to him.
I originally read the first third or so of Control Point a couple of years ago and found it quite difficult to get into. Britton is an unusual character as he has a constant internal monologue that questions everything and he seems to change his mind with every other thought. The opening set-piece, involving an attack on a school that’s got Selfers hiding inside, is really good and an exciting hook. But when Oscar goes on the run and we spend around 150 pages with him and his stressed-to-the-max thoughts it gets a little tedious despite the fast pace. So I left it there. But with all the praise Myke’s books have gotten since Control Point (which seems to be widely considered his weakest) I’ve been dying to get around to them. So this week I decided that I’d just go for it and try it again, and frustratingly (in hindsight) I was probably only a chapter away from where it gets reeeeeally good.
Things pick up when Oscar is brought to SOC (I forget the full name) – basically magical school for the US military. It’s all very training montage with some cliché bits and pieces in there but man alive is it fun. The whole system of magic is so well integrated into the modern military setting that it feels fresh and innovative, despite there not actually being anything particularly new with regards the powers. Peter V. Brett was right when he described it as X-men meets Black Hawk Down.
Another reason things really improve in the latter half of the book involve the supporting cast introduced at the SOC. The Full Metal Jacket-esque Chief Warrant Officer Fitzy is page-chewingly horrific, stealing many scenes, and Britton’s team (Shadow Coven) is made up of some very well realised characters. And there’s Scylla, who is clearly being set up for later books as someone to be feared. Massively. All this perhaps highlights the main issue with Control Point: Oscar Britton himself. He’s a bit reactionary – until the end – and yet as already stated, has a strange internal monologue that constantly questions everything. As a military man it’s strange that he would be so constantly poor at following orders or at questioning his betters. He is probably supposed to come over as someone who overthinks everything and is a bit indecisive, but really he seems a bit childish.
All in all though on this go around I really enjoyed Control Point. Soundbite time (though surely someone’s already beaten me to it): If Harry Potter grew up and joined the US military you’d get something like this. It’s a lot of fun, filled with great action sequences and by all accounts the books gets better and better. I’m excited.