Dark Operator, the first book in the five book series by John “Doc” Spears, Jason Anspach, and Nick Cole [Amazon link] is the most thrilling example of careful planning, diligent preparation, and conscientious execution that I have ever read. And yes, I’m totally serious about that.
Doc Spears has a remarkable biography. Green Beret. Osteopath. And now writer. Special Forces or surgeon would constitute a complete career for most people, so doing both stands out in my view. That background also gives this book a remarkable depth, it is packed full of the distilled experience of a man who has been there and done that.
As the title and the cover might suggest, you will get operators doing operator things: killing people and breaking stuff in spectacular fashion. However, you also get something that is far more interesting in my opinion: the hard work and preparation that makes for true excellence.
In the main Galaxy’s Edge series, we get to see kill teams in action, but it is here that we see some of the process of recruiting, training, and team building that makes the kill teams what they are. And once the protagonist, Kel Turner, gets selected for a solo mission, then we get to see that being in Special Forces means much more than being a crack shot. Kel spends most of his time in the book observing, advising, and training others. As talented as he is, his true value is in his knowledge and experience being shared with those who need it.
While I do not know first hand the ways elite operators, I do know the thrill of being on a small team of highly experienced professionals with a high degree of autonomy and trust. You can get some remarkable things done that way in many avenues of life, and I feel that the dynamics of such a team are captured well in Dark Operator.
That solo mission is to the world of Meridian, a planet settled by Greeks that maintained their ancestral language and traditions partly by long isolation from the rest of the galaxy. Kel’s mission is to advise and assist the rulers of the planet with political unrest that is threatening to spiral out of control. The government of Meridian is undemocratic and repressive, but useful to the powerful, so the regime is secretly propped up by the quietly competent servants of empire, men like Kel. The setup mirrors the political situation of Greece in the 1970s, when it was ruled by a junta, but also a key Cold War ally of the United States and part of NATO.
Kel’s experiences on Meridian are so well portrayed that I would have found it plausible that this book is a thinly fictionalized memoir of Spears’ time there when he was a Green Beret, except that the dates don’t match up, not to mention that would have been the wrong part of the world for the units he served in. It just seemed real, which is a testament to the skill of the authors.
Another element that adds to my impression of realism is Kel’s uneasy relationship with his erstwhile allies in Republic intelligence. Soldiers are often straightforward and unsubtle men, motivated by duty, while spies have a tendency toward moral flexibility and find duplicity as natural as breathing. While on Meridian, Kel stumbles upon the kind of shady cover operation that the United States intelligence agencies were notorious for running during the Cold War. Compartmentalization and operational security work just as well at shielding you from the attention of your own government as your opponent.
Kel’s intense discomfort with the moral ambiguity of his mission and his own role in bringing about the political machinations that occur on Meridian war with his pride for a job well done and his sense of duty. There is at least a hint that perhaps Kel’s work on Meridian served the greater good, but in his world as in ours, the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, and only at the end of days shall accounts truly be settled.
I very much enjoyed this book, and I look forward to seeing what other trouble Kel Turner finds himself in.
I purchased Dark Operator myself, no review copy was provided by the authors.
Galaxy’s Edge season 1:
Legionnaire: Galaxy's Edge #1 Book Review
Galactic Outlaws: Galaxy's Edge #2 Book Review
Kill Team: Galaxy's Edge #3 Book Review
Attack of Shadows: Galaxy's Edge #4 Book Review
Sword of the Legion: Galaxy's Edge #5 Book Review
Tin Man: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Prisoners of Darkness: Galaxy's Edge #6 Book Review
Imperator: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Turning Point: Galaxy's Edge #7 Book Review
Message for the Dead: Galaxy's Edge #8 Book Review
Retribution: Galaxy’s Edge #9 Book Review
Galaxy’s Edge season 2:
Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations:
Requiem for Medusa: Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations Book 1 Review
Order of the Centurion
Order of the Centurion #1 Book Review
Iron Wolves: Order of the Centurion #2 Book Review
Stryker’s War: Order of the Centurion #3 Book Review
Through the Nether: Order of the Centurion #4 Book Review
The Reservist: Order of the Centurion #5 Book Review