GEMINI CELL Offers a Lively Zombie Mil-SF Tale

Gemini Cell (Reawakening Trilogy #1) 
Written by Myke Cole
Published by Ace
January 27, 2015
Paperback, 402 pages

Navy SEALs are pretty hard-core Operators, no question. The training, the drive, the esprit de corps that makes their teams so tight-knit… all of that helps to define a select number of Navy personnel as the best of the best.

Jim Schweitzer is one of those best. He considers himself an artist. Not in the way his wife Sarah is an artist, certainly. She works with canvas. He works with high-velocity ammunition. He has a certain special set of skills, which makes him uniquely qualified for a new super-secret government operation called the Gemini Cell.

But he has to die first.

Taking place in the Shadow Ops universe, Gemini Cell is the first in a new series telling the origin story of a new kind of warrior. Schweitzer, now dead, is bonded to the spirit of an ancient jinn, and the resulting entity is a magic super-soldier capable of great feats without fatigue or pain. The biggest problem is deciding who gets to drive the body, as the ancient Ninip is regularly fighting to dominate and push Schweitzer out to oblivion. Ninip is an ancient warrior, and his code consists mainly of bloodlust and straightforward combat, whereas Schweitzer is a modern professional soldier whose entire career has been built around information and teamwork. Recklessness gets a SEAL killed and an operation blown, and he has to adjust to the fact that he’s already dead.

And Ninip is nothing but reckless. The more he kills, the more he wants to kill, and Schweitzer has a tough time keeping him in check.

The Gemini Cell is an operation ostensibly of the American government, and it’s not the only one in the world. But Schweitzer is unique, and this matters to some people who want to figure out why that’s the case. And it’s interesting to see how Schweitzer uses the things he knows, the skills he’s acquired, to adapt to his new circumstances at the same time figuring out that there are certain things he needn’t worry about anymore — like breathing.

Meantime, there’s a side story thread involving Jim’s best friend Steve, and that looks like it might head somewhere in subsequent stories (or it might not). There are some indications that at least part of this government operation might be treading into the shadier side of the room, and there’s enough to cause one to question just which persons are the “good guys” overall. At one point, I got the impression that this is either a much bigger operation than first portrayed by Schweitzer’s handler, or we’re looking at multiple compartmentalized operations. Could one or some of them have gone rogue?

The story is tightly written, and the violence isn’t gratuitous; it’s just enough to get across the idea that various factions involved here are more layered than just your typical moustache-twirling villain. Ninip demonstrates both irrational bloodlust and contemplative sulking, while Schweitzer is both the professional warrior and the out-of-control thug depending on whether he lets Ninip have too much control or not. The fact that he’s the first Operator who hasn’t gone completely mad is of interest, and I think there are pieces laid down in this story hinting that there’s more to Jim’s wife Sarah than what originally meets the eye. Perhaps this plays out in later books. I’m playing catch-up, so no spoilers.

I thought the “magic” aspects were an interesting addition to the prototypical origin story. It’s a military SF story, yes, but with zombies (of a sort), and that makes it more intriguing. It’s especially so since Schweitzer knows he’s dead but for the most part wants to behave as if he’s still alive in order to hang onto his humanity and rationality. This also gives him an edge over Ninp, it seems. There’s no good indication as to how old the Ninip entity might be, but I think it’s a hoot that Schweitzer tries to civilize him a bit by reading Little Women in his spare time. Schweitzer’s a thinker, and he’s always thinking and analyzing his situation, not just in the field, but also with regard to his current circumstances and what information they’re telling him about his wife and son. He knows things aren’t on the up-and-up.

And where things stand at the end of this book, there are plenty of ways it could go and enough questions left hanging that I’m inclined to get the next book in the series. So now I need to go back through the pile and see if I have any others from Myke Cole, or else go track them down and catch up that way. I enjoyed this one, and while it’s yet another series to dig into, it’s a new-to-me title from a new-to-me author, and that’s ultimately a net positive.

This one’s a recommend.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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