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MJ-12: Inception: A MAJESTIC-12 Thriller Hardcover – September 6, 2016
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A smart look at a Cold War in many ways even colder and scarier and deadlier than the one we barely survived.”
New York Times bestselling author Harry Turtledove
A heady blend of super-spies and superpowers, MJ-12: Inception is Cold War-era science fiction done right. A taut thriller, and skillfully evocative.”
New York Times bestselling author Chris Roberson
X-Men meets Mission: Impossible. Martinez takes a concept as simple as Super spies that are actually super’ and comes away with a hit. Filled with compelling, well-rounded characters, MJ-12 is my new favorite spy series.”
Michael R. Underwood, author of Geekomancy and the Genrenauts series
The Cold War becomes even more chilling as super-powered Americans are trained to become super-spies in Martinez's new alternate-history thriller. It's morally-complex, intense, and so steeped in the 1940s, you can smell the cigarette smoke.”
Beth Cato, author of Breath of Earth and The Clockwork Dagger
MJ-12: Inception is a thriller that blends the best elements of Cold War-era spy stories, supernatural fantasy, and splashy pulp comics.”
B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
MJ-12: Inception is Michael J. Martinez doing what he does best: taking a selection of great genres and mashing them up into something fresh and exciting, and quite unlike anything you’ve read before . . . . Or to put it another way, it’s like the X-Files and Heroes went back in time, dressed up in dinner jackets, lit a fuse, and jumped through a window to the theme from Mission: Impossible. Absolutely loved it.”
Martinez made a point to recognize the sacrifices made by those in the intelligence community to protect their nation . . . . the characters were all well-developed, their powers were imaginative, the twists weren’t obvious and Martinez did a good job capturing the setting . . . . MJ-12: Inception was an enjoyable twist on the superhero genre and I look forward to seeing what happens next.”
With MJ-12: Inception, Martinez weaves an intense tale of patriotism, Cold War politics, the U.S. spy network, and the nuances of human relationships which I simply couldn’t put down.”
Martinez has me hooked, and I’m anxiously awaiting the next book in the trilogyI imagine more Variants, more subterfuge, and more world-ending risks are to be revealed. It’s good stuff.”
MJ-12: Inception is both a complete stand alone adventure and a thrilling introduction to a richly reimagined Cold War spy-fi series. I eagerly await Michael J. Martinez’s next novel featuring the Majestic 12.”
Praise for Michael J. Martinez
[Martinez] seamlessly blends popular elements from science fiction and fantasy, producing a work that raises the bar for both.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review for The Venusian Gambit)
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This was quite a surprise. I've been familiar with the general lore of the Majestic 12 UFO conspiracy for a few years, and when I saw this book, I was immediately intrigued by the title. Obviously, just by reading the summary, it's clear that this book has very little to do with the Majestic 12 mentioned in UFO conspiracy circles. But that's one of this book's greatest strengths.
It draws heavily upon aspects of the conspiracy (including using some of the names in the original MJ-12 document) as well as weaving in other real-world political and military figures into this story of a bunch of humans turned into superhumans by an anomaly caused by the Atomic Bomb being dropped and being recruited by the American government as part of a top-secret intelligence and military program. The book goes so far as to include mockups of MJ-12 documents (relating to whatever has just happened in the novel) to lend even more credence to the idea that this is based off the supposed real life MJ-12. (The origins of the real life MJ-12 even get a clever nod in one scene in the first third of the book; it was really clever.)
I expected this book to be like the Transformers film, but in novel form. I expected a mindless summer blockbuster style thriller. But what I got was something better. If we're going to continue using the analogy of movies here, MJ-12: Inception is closer to a Marvel movie than a Transformers film. It's very much still an action-thriller, but there's a lot of time and care spent developing the characters and their involvement and chemistry with each other.
You'd think a story that's basically sold as "what if the X-Men were spies?" wouldn't bother to actually have depth, but you'd be wrong. There's a lot of depth. One of the characters, Cal, repeatedly questions the morality of what he's being asked to do. He spends great deals of time trying to rectify his potentially destructive powers and his Christian faith. Another character, Maggie, allows herself to get swept up and consumed by her powers, leading other characters to question whether or not this is a wise or safe move.
It's little touches like that that make this book stand out and become something better than the pulpy story it looked like it would be. I really can't emphasize just how surprised I was by this. I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you're a fan of spy novels, thrillers, superheroes, or alternate histories, you should definitely check this book out.
Be warned, it's the first of a series - and it ends on a cliffhanger. Not a terrible one, the main plot is wrapped up in the novel, but there are some teasers left that will make waiting for the sequel (coming out in September) difficult. Color me excited for more of these books! Kudos, Michael J. Martinez. You hit this one out of the park.
Variants are essentially superheroes, but these aren’t the spandex clad, Hall of Justice types. No, these are plausible human beings who just happen to have supernatural abilities. MJ-12: Inception is an origin story, which follows the classic structure of rounding up the heroes, training them, drama, and, finally, coalescing. However, this book isn't about a team of heroes versus super-villains; no, this story is a realistic assembly of a small special operations unit. Through this one unit, the reader learns that the nuclear destruction in Japan changed the world in ways that the general population never gets to know.
TL;DR: Highly recommended for fans of Cold War era spy novels and superheroes.
Superhero novels have to walk a very careful line. If the abilities are too powerful, then the stakes become essentially meaningless. On the other hand, if the abilities are weak, what’s the point of having them? Straying too far from that line reduces the realism. Mr. Martinez balances the superpowers effectively here. The main characters have special abilities, but instead of being defined by their abilities, the cast are spies who have unique tools that help their spy craft. This gives the novel a realistic feel, as if the consequences are higher than bad guys ending up in a jail cell.
MJ-12: Inception focuses on characters that are pressed into service for the United States of America. The main characters are what drive the novel. Each one of them is a believable individual whose life is not improved by this change. This change comes at a cost in which the positive aspect is balanced by a negative. But the toll doesn't end there. Two of them have psychiatric damage directly related to their abilities, and this added humanity to character. How could collateral damage not affect someone?
Maggie and Danny are the best characters in the novel. Maggie starts the story as an ex-teacher, full of guilt. As the story continues, she, of course, changes, but I’m not sure for the better. By the end of the novel, Maggie’s in a good place, but is she better? Hopefully that question will be explored in the next installment. Danny is the leader of the group, and the reader gets to see how he balances the differing personalities of the squad with his own responsibilities. Throughout the novel, Danny felt squeezed between duty to his country and concern for his teams. Though, the reader only gets to see one field squad, we also watch Danny as he leads a research group and handles superior officers. This man has a thankless job, but he never fails to lead.
Frank and Cal were interesting members of the squad. While they were fleshed out and believable, I didn't connect with them as much as Maggie and Danny. Frank, a vet, and Cal, a factory worker, are the moral centers of the group. Cal’s religious devotion guides him through the novel, and this gives Mr. Martinez plenty of opportunities for tension. For a devout man, what lines that might be necessary for a spy will Cal not cross? Frank’s morality is secular, centered on getting everyone home alive. Based on his experience in the military, he falls into the leadership role for the squad. Darkness exists in Frank, and I hope in future installments we get to see him dealing with the wounds from WWII that he still carries.
Ellis is a problematic character. He’s a Southerner, who contains the era appropriate racist/sexist outlook. But he’s not a villain. Ellis’s just a man who owes money and wants to see his family. I didn’t like him, but I didn’t hate him either. His actions were appropriately rooted in character, not to fulfill some stereotype.
The book opens with a strong sense of place in Berlin at the end of World War II. It reminded me of the scenery in the movie Bridge of Spies. Like any good spy tale, MJ-12: Inception involves travel. The story stays in the continental US and Europe, but there is a fun trip to Turkey as well. The novel also features an innovative origin for a certain special location within these United States. This made me laugh quite a bit.
With the abundance of superhero stories available - especially with the successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s tough to do an origin story correctly. While Mr. Martinez writes the finding and cohesion parts of the narrative very well, the training portion went a little long for me. I was ready for them to get into their first mission sooner.
The twists were all logical but a bit predictable. I go back and forth about whether this is a criticism or not. All the actions are rooted in character and are, therefore, logically discernable through the character's actions. But there wasn't much of a surprise with the twists. This doesn't mean that the stakes aren't high. They are. The world and the characters are irrevocably changed by the end of the novel. How will this affect them going forward?
MJ-12: Inception is an excellent spy novel that happens to star individuals with powers. It’s driven by complex characters in an evocative setting. A disparate team is brought together to serve their country, unaware of the larger mysteries that surround them. This opening to a new series is recommended.
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With his first novel, The Daedalus Incident, Michael J.Read more