Review: “The Pilot,” Michael Cole

Pros: Interesting military-vs-monsters story
Cons: Details that don’t add up right
Rating: 3 out of 5

Michael Cole’s The Pilot introduces us to Victor Seymour, a Navy SEAL who was discharged due to cancer, recovered, and became a mercenary. He and his team are manipulated into working for the government this time: they have to go to a mysterious island, rescue some hostages, and bring with them agent Cassie Hawk, who knows more about what’s going on than she’s saying. There’s an alien loose on the island–something the government calls the Pilot–and it’s extremely dangerous. It also has an agenda.

The alien Pilot is a cross between a Predator and an Alien. It’s a danger to all of humanity, and our heroes will have a hard time surviving its attention. The pacing of this book is quite good–the tension slowly builds, and about two-thirds of the way through it becomes wonderfully tense. That’s also the point at which the narrative became a bit smoother, as though the author had really hit his stride. Prior to that some of the writing seemed a bit stilted and awkward.

The book could have used another round of editing. There were a number of misspellings of the sort a spell-checker won’t catch (one word substituted for something one letter off). I’m also pretty sure that the author intended to say that the eight-foot-tall alien had 12 INCH fangs, not fangs “twelve feet in length”. It’s still hard to imagine fangs a foot long being at all wieldy, mind you.

The characters are an odd mix of stereotypical and non-stereotypical. For instance, I’m just shocked that the sole Japanese mercenary was inscrutable, nigh-silent, and proficient with a sword. The Korean soldiers the good guys encounter are used just as soulless cannon fodder, and everything the characters do to them (including torture in one case) is depicted as perfectly reasonable. (Content note for blood, guts, explosions, and torture.)

SPOILER WARNING: Go to the next paragraph to avoid spoilers. At one point in the book, the team is concerned that the Pilot will repair and use a damaged plane to escape the island. They’re convinced that because it comes from a highly technologically advanced civilization, it will be able to do this in a matter of hours. So one, they’re assuming that just because it’s advanced, it’s a mechanic. Which, huh? Two, they’re assuming that if you can operate advanced tech, you can automatically operate primitive tech. This is a plane built in a totally different cultural and technological context. I mean, how the hell does the Pilot know how to activate autopilot?? I’m pretty sure if you took someone who knew how to drive a Tesla and put them in a biplane, they wouldn’t know how to operate it simply because it was less advanced. All of this really made things fall apart toward the end. END SPOILER WARNING.

If you’re looking for a tense military-vs-monsters book and don’t care whether the details add up, this would be an engaging read. If you’re looking for sense, however, try something else.

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