Pros: Can’t get enough of these
Rating: 5 out of 5
William Meikle’s Operation Mongolia (S-Squad) is book eight in the series. These are short, fun military-vs.-monsters tales that are the monster fan’s version of a beach read. They’re just so enjoyable! This time our heroes are sent to the Gobi desert to escort two stranded paleontologists back to civilization. When the group tries to camel-ride and walk their way out, something from beneath the sands kills one of the camels and eats it from the inside out. When the group encounters a temple of silent monks, they’re shown the secret that the sands are keeping: giant, carnivorous worms that generate electrical fields. The worms are brought to the surface by rain, and the rainy season just started…
“But big electric worms? In the desert? It’s a bit far-fetched, isn’t it? The spice must flow and all that crap?”
As always, the characters are wonderful. With just the shortest strokes they’re sketched out in three dimensions. Professor Gillings seems like the stereotypical entitled, outraged man at the start, when Captain Banks points out that they’ll have to leave the paleontologists’ finds behind since they have no working vehicle. But he turns out to have more depth than that, and he’s capable of acknowledging that he can be an ass. Captain Banks ends up splitting the party–something he’s generally wise enough not to do, although this time he really has no choice–and we get to hear Wiggins and the privates get into a discussion with Dr. Reid as to why they joined up with the military. We even get to find out why Wiggins is always making the “your wife” jokes with Sergeant Hynds.
Content note: there is a very bawdy joke in here, and a very grotesque death, but they’re entirely appropriate to the characters and genre.
The pacing is excellent. Meikle is an expert at gradually raising the stakes, finding new and interesting ways to thwart the monsters, and tossing in some seemingly insurmountable problems. I can’t wait to read more of these books!