As a reader, I always find it something to celebrate when you find out that a new author you’ve found has written more than the one title that you’ve just come across; it feels like a hidden treasure trove that only you know about, and one that you can immediately dive into and get reading. And certainly for me, it’s the same when I find out that there’s going to be another title released in a series that I’m enjoying. So it was therefore fantastic news when author William Meikle announced a few months ago that he had been contracted with publishers Severed Press to deliver several more titles in the ‘S-Squad’ series, sequels to Infestation and Operation: Antarctica. I’ve reviewed both titles here on the blog, and found them to be fast-paced, action-heavy ‘creature feature’ novellas that threw a squad of heavily-armed British special forces into the fray against all manner of unnatural creatures. Infestation saw Captain Banks and his men investigate a mysterious Russian spy trawler, only to be swarmed by gigantic Isopods disturbed by illegal drilling who were more than happy to kill anyone that got in their way; and after barely catching their breath, Operation: Antarctica saw the survivors of the squad head to an abandoned survey base in search of a mysterious signal, instead encountering frozen, undead Nazis and a mysterious UFO.
This time, after an all-too brief period of Rest & Relaxation, Operation: Siberia has the squad assigned to babysit a small group of UN scientists inspecting a Russian billionaire’s private zoo in the depths of Siberia; but what is supposed to be an easy ‘milk run’ mission turns out to be anything but, and once again S-Squad are faced with creatures that should either be extinct – or not actually exist at all. The idea of a privately-owned zoo is certainly an interesting one, and superficially there are tones of Jurassic Park to the novella via the concept of an oligarch utilising his immense wealth to procure fossils and preserved corpses of extinct animals in order to clone them. However, Mr Meikle takes the story in something of a different dimension, and while I’ve no desire to spoil the plot of the novella, he’s able to evoke a surprising amount of emotion and sympathy from the plight of the creatures that reside in the zoo.
As with all of the ‘creature feature’ titles that Mr Meikle writes, the amount of research that he does, and the passion that he has for the subject of cryptozoology, shines through onto the pages of Operation: Siberia and gives the subject matter some depth that many similar titles lack. All of the animals and mammals included in the plot are local to the area, and also realistic in terms of what might actually be possible to reproduce; and even within the relatively short page count of the novella, the author is able to portray a realistic environment for all of them to exist in, as well as some impressive clashes between predators and prey. Indeed like all of its predecessors, Operation: Siberia has some spectacularly intense action scenes, particularly when SD-Squad are having to fight their way out of an ambush, or are being stalked by a predator species, and these are joined by some very welcome brawls between different predators. The fights are short, brutal and always vividly described, effortlessly sucking you into the action.
Finally, it’s also nice to see how the surviving characters of S-Squad are starting to be developed and fleshed-out by Mr Meikle, While these types of ‘creature feature’ and monster-hunting titles are usually populated with two-dimensional (at best) characters that you’re aware are there just to be chewed up by whatever predator is pursuing them, the benefit of this being the third title allows Captain Banks, Sergeant Hynd and the others remaining members to become a bit more real, and therefore more likeable and engaging. It will be interesting to see how they’re further expanded upon in future titles, and whether any additional members will join them (and survive).
All in all, Operation: Siberia is another winner from Mr Meikle. It’s a short, sharp and effective piece of writing that once again illustrates his range as a writer, providing the reader with fast-paced and action-heavy title that still allows for some interesting antagonists in the form of the creatures the special forces team face, as well as some musings on the nature of humanity’s increasing manipulation of nature. Hugely enjoyable, and I look forward to the next title – and hopefully many more!