Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole
Angry Robot, pb, £9.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
America and China are in conflict over the moon’s resources, not quite at war, but it’s in the air. Captain Jane Oliver of the Coast Guard is looking forward to a comfortable retirement when things in space escalate and she is commissioned for a peace-keeping role as the head of the Coast Guard’s elite SAR-1 lunar unit. While everyone else is preparing for war, Oliver is the one sane voice fighting to keep everyone alive, American and Chinese, civilian or marine.
If you’ve read enough of my reviews, you’ll know I have a thing about military space novels, so I jumped on the opportunity to read Sixteenth Watch and it did not disappoint. I was drawn in by the focus on the Coast Guard rather than the marines. A different attitude with different ways of doing things. This kept what is quite a familiar story of averting a war fresh.
The story also starts with tragedy, the death of Oliver’s husband, a marine, on a mission to defuse growing tensions on the moon between American and Chinese miners. Oliver’s grief and guilt for not preventing her husband’s death, has permeated downwards to the rest of the lunar coast guards leaving them ineffectual as a group. Oliver’s role is not just to prevent a war or find herself again, but to save the Coast Guard as an effective life-saving unit. Cole’s portrayal of the damage of grief, the funny little ways it can affect us when we least expect it, is clever. It feels raw. Pain is etched on every page.
And so is frustration. There are only a few people who don’t want this war and Oliver is continually told that she out of her depths, not able to make the call and kill in order to save lives. Alternative options to war are ridiculed and dismissed, which is annoying and the sort of thing that keeps me turning the page, more than explosive action. It reminded me of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, two sides gunning for a war and very few people trying to stop it. This is a story full of intrigue and political game-playing as well as fire fights in space. What is there not to love?
Sixteenth Watch finishes with a cliff-hanger which I won’t go into here because I’m spoiler-free, and I can’t wait for the next installment.