I hadn’t planned on returning to the S-Squad series quite yet, but I’m waiting to get my hands on William Hope Hodgson’s Captain Gault series before reading any more Carnacki pastiches by Meikle.
And, since the thermometer was significantly below zero, it was time to read something set in a chilly place. Surprisingly, I seemed to not have any unread books like that in the library except for Dan Simmons’ The Abominable which, since I have the doorstopper hardcover edition and was going to be traveling, was not an option.
So, I started the S-Squad series again. However, the story ended up being set in Siberian summer.
Review: Operation: Siberia, William Meikle, 2018.
It’s not a spy mission but an escort mission that brings the S-Squad to Siberia. Three scientists have been sent by the UN to see if Russian oligarch Volkov has complied with all international conventions in creating what’s basically a Pleistocene Park.
He probably hasn’t, but he certainly has brought back a lot of megafauna: mammoths, dire wolves, big lions, big birds, and some kind of hominid.
Volkov’s has been as lax about his security as his legal compliance, and, the next thing you know, the animals have escaped from their glass dome cages and start killing people.
The strengths of the novel is Meikle’s obvious love for his megafauna. Even at the end, we sense their grandeur or beauty as opposed to the ugly menaces of the proceeding installments in the series, Infestation and Operation Antarctica.
And that hominid? Well, let’s just say Meikle does something interesting with that.
There are frequently characters in Meikle stories bound by duty. Here, it’s not only the S-Squad, but the scientists who want to know more about Volkov’s hominids.
However, one quibble I have is that, at some points, Meikle’s prose is a little too sparse and economical; it doesn’t go for the full spectacle it might. For instance, there is one scene where some “thunderbirds” bring down a transport plane. The scene is quickly described, but I think the drama would have been better if more details, sort of a slow motion description of disaster, were given. I also would have liked more details on how that security system fails.
However, I suspect the writ from Severed Press, publishers of the series, is a lean story under a certain page count, so Meikle may not have had room to do that even if he wanted to.
Still, I liked this one more than I thought I would.
The S-Squad series is good modern pulp ideal for resting your brain with a few hours of monster slaying.