Thank you so much to my partner Angry Robot Books (thank you!) for the finished copy of Sixteenth Watch by Myke Cole! The book was provided in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.
Here is the description from GoodReads:
The Coast Guard must prevent the first lunar war in history. A lifelong Search-and-Rescuewoman, Coast Guard Captain Jane Oliver is ready for a peaceful retirement. But when tragedy strikes, Oliver loses her husband and her plans for the future, and finds herself thrust into a role she’s not prepared for. Suddenly at the helm of the Coast Guard’s elite SAR-1 lunar unit, Oliver is the only woman who can prevent the first lunar war in history, a conflict that will surely consume not only the moon, but earth as well.
I usually enjoy books with fictional military bearing and love my sci fi, so this book seemed like a natural pick. It is my first romp into current American military fiction, featuring mainly the Coast Guard and Marine Corps/Navy. Sixteenth Watch is what they call a tour in space, and one central plot is a huge military branch jurisdiction battle…in space.
Captain Oliver is trying to prevent a war with China. Tensions have been heating up on the moon and the Coast Guard is the branch for the job, but the Navy has pushed them into a corner. The solution seems to be to win a military competition that the Marines have been dominating for years in order to win public support. The Coast Guard team is capable but still reeling from losses incurred in a surface skirmish years ago where they lost two team members and Oliver’s husband. There are also overarching themes of dealing with grief, self forgiveness, teamwork, and standing up for yourself and your team when things get hairy.
I did enjoy the book a lot but the plot was scattered all over the place at times. Boarding Actions were interesting enough to carry the action for the most part, and jurisdictional conflicts were individually interesting, but I wanted more cohesion. The SAR-1 team went from disgruntled to cohesive VERY quickly after a few weeks and one particular incident in the field, and I think even before presenting the team competition there should have been a little more proof of their friendships forming and teamwork solidifying. Cold packed way too much into the end and then just ended the book with a sense of closure that I didn’t feel, at all
I did absolutely love Oliver and the team though, she was such a bad-ass. I wanted to root for her team of Coasties, like who doesn’t love watching a team come together?? The pacing of the entire novel just felt off even though they only had a few weeks together, most of the action was in the last quarter when the book got interesting. Prior to that the story seemed to be a cycle of grief and exposition, which was needed but set it off to a slow start for me.
The other thing I need to mention are all the abbreviations and editing. A glossary is provided for us non-military people but it was a bit of a struggle for me to keep up sometimes. There are also multiple typos and areas that needed another read over, and since this is a finished copy I allowed it to distract me a bit.
This is definitely a must for military fiction readers. I think sci-fi readers will enjoy it too but it was less about sci-fi and more about the military and strategy and Marines waving their d!cks (sorry I lived with one for a LONG time and this seemed quite accurate). I would still recommend it too for those who like kick ass female characters and stories with team competitions.
Thank you again to Angry Robot Books for the book (Gemma is amazing)! All opinions are my own.