Book Review: MJ-12: Shadows by Michael J. Martinez

Last year I reviewed MJ-12: Inception by Michael J. Martinez, book one in the MAJESTIC-12 series. Today the sequel, MJ-12: Shadows, has been released and Michael was kind enough to send me a review copy. So lets get out our cloak and dagger and see what we can uncover about this new novel.

For those who don’t know, the MAJESTIC-12 series is a secret history where the atomic bombings of Japan at the end of World War II cause two spinning white balls known as vortexes to appear in Berlin and in Hiroshima. These vortexes emit radiation that causes individual humans to develop superpowers which are called “Variants” by the United States and “Empowered” by the Soviet Union. Both nations use these super-powered beings for clandestine operations, with the American Variants being attached to the CIA and based out of Area 51 (using the conspiracy theory of a crashed UFO as misinformation for what is really going on there, hence all of the ufology attached to the series, which remains a nice touch).

In Shadows, the Majestic-12 team is sent to Syria to help with a regime change so America can get a government that is more willing to work with Washington. Although things go well at first, America’s new man in Damascus becomes increasingly erratic and unpopular and is himself overthrown in a coup causing the Majestic-12 team to be captured by the Soviets. They are taken to Central Asia, but a new team of Majestic-12 recruits has been dispatched to bring them back.

There is also a sub-plot where two Majestic-12 agents are tasked with investigating leaks about their program which causes them to follow some of the most powerful men in Washington who want nothing better then for all of the Variants to be rounded up and put in a deep, dark hole forever. Thus with their freedom and liberty at stake, many Variants begin questioning their relationship with their government and whether Majestic-12 will ultimately succeed.

Shadows was ultimately a satisfying sequel to Inception. Michael continues to be an excellent world-builder and can create believable characters (he even appeared to address some of my concerns about about racial equality in the 1940s from my review of Inception). Plus I will approve of most novels that give me Harry Truman, who remains my favorite Cold War president.

As for downsides…well I don’t want to spoil anything so skip the next paragraph if you don’t want a reveal ruined for you…

Still with me? Well it turns out an important Soviet leader is also a Variant/Empowered and if you know anything about this guy, you kind of know how likely his plan for world domination will succeed. This doesn’t necessarily ruin Shadows for me, but it does mean that I basically know at least one character’s final destination. That being said, the journey is always more important than the destination, so if Michael can keep us intrigued about his mutant spies, he will have a reader in me.

I should also mention that the version of Shadows I read was an uncorrected proof, so I can’t comment on any spelling or grammar errors that may appear in the final version. That said, I did see a few continuity errors that will also hopefully be removed. One such continuity error, however, made it appear that at least one of the new Variants we are introduced to had water-based powers. I’m happy that was changed as it would have been too similar to a Soviet Variant we saw in Inception and I like how every Variant we have seen so far has had unique powers that don’t necessarily parallel the flashier superpowers we see in comics (energy beams, flight, etc.). I hope Michael can keep that up with the sequels.

If you like superhuman operatives fighting the weird fight in the shadow of nuclear war, then go check out the Majestic-12 series. As for my next review I will be taking a look at a book featuring…super-powered humans who…spy on their nation’s enemy.

Huh…what an oddly specific sub-genre to become popular all of the sudden.

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