Coast Guard in space. That’s *literally* all it took to get me excited about reading this. Full disclosure? I spent seven years in the Coast Guard, most of them as…well, first I was a Radioman, then they changed it to Telecommunications Specialist, and they were in the process of changing it yet AGAIN when I left. Basically? I was the one that was on the other end of the radio, answering mayday calls, and keeping comms with the small boats, the helos, and whoever else happened to be out there. I was that voice that let everyone know they’d be ok, and made sure my crews had what they needed. But, it didn’t end there – when I got out, I got married to a Boatswain’s Mate, who eventually retired as a Chief. So…what I’m saying is…I have a perspective on the Coast Guard that many of the novel’s readers may not. Most people are labeling Sixteenth Watch as military sci-fi. And, well – they’re not wrong. But for me, while reading it, it was simply exactly what got me hooked – Coast Guard in space.
Sixteenth Watch is also, at its heart, what the Coast Guard is – about its people. The stories, the people, the adrenaline, and the job. Here, we have Capt. Jane Oliver, who suffered a horrific tragedy and is just biding her time until retirement. However, in the age of space, the Coast Guard’s natural mission is being taken over by the Navy, with disastrous results. Jane ends up heading a team destined to try and win the latest and greatest reality show, Boarding Action, in the hopes that their position will be reevaluated. Jane is flawed, but absolutely human. She is that rarest of CO’s – one who trusts in, and believes in, her people. She’s also still haunted by her tragedy, and that comes into play as well.
But it’s not just about Jane – Myke Cole does an *exemplary* job conveying the TEAM that is at the heart of the Coast Guard. Jane’s XO, and the sailors she is training, are more than just words on a page. They are as human as any characters I’ve read, and as the reader goes through the book, the highs will have them cheering and the lows will have them gasping.
Having said all of that – what really had me going in this story is that, as a former Coastie whose life was tied to the Guard in one way or another for almost 20 years? I *felt* that action. I lived it along with the characters on the page. Sure, they’re in space, so some details are necessarily different. But the overall pieces? The search-and-rescue, and the boarding teams? The communication and the nitty gritty? IT’S THE SAME. I did some boardings before I went to school while stationed in Florida – and that tense build-up, waiting to see if the ship you were hailing is going to follow instructions? Nailed it. And even *after* I went to school, I promise you this – the one on the radio is just as tense in the station as those on the boat. Because if shit goes sideways, it’ll be the radioman calling for more units to assist – or ambulances to meet at the dock. Cole really took his Coast Guard experience and was able to capture the feels, and the emotions, and the teamwork that ENCAPSULATES the Guard and its mission to the core.
Not only that, but to be honest? Cole captures the competition between the services as well. It’s no secret among the military that Navy and Coast Guard compete. Generally the Marines like the Coasties – but much of the Navy has little use for us, and vice versa. There’s A LOT I could go into on *that* subject, but…suffice to say that there is no shortage of inter-agency rivalry going on here. Definitely ratchets up the investment in the action.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, honestly, though I hoped it would just be a good read. It was far better than I hoped, and now my hope is that it will give others who read it a better idea (or even *some* idea) of what the Coast Guard is about. Far too many people are unaware of just how broad their mission is, and this seems like an excellent way to help bring awareness in a fun and engrossing way. It’s a fast-paced read, and anyone simply looking for basic military sci-fi will certainly get that here. But anyone who has any background in the Guard will feel right at home – even on the moon.