Review: White Ops by Declan Finn

White Ops by [Declan Finn]

Whew! Apologies for the delayed review, readers. It’s been a busy time and I had to read this work in between breaks. Yes, it’s been that type of busy behind the scenes here at A Song of Joy and I am ashamed to say it has prevented me from reading and reviewing the early copy I received of this stellar novel any earlier than I am now.

So let us cut to the chase and focus on this book, shall we? Welcome to White Ops*, the special operations unit that is so secret they are not black. Remember how white moves first on the chessboard, but the bad guys move first in real life, leaving the heroes to react to their actions?

Not this time:

The Pharmakoi rampaged across dozens of star systems, taking on the toughest races in the Galaxy in their campaign of conquest. But they are only the beginning.

Sean Patrick Ryan sees that another race is behind the Pharmakoi expansion; a race that wants to test our galaxy for weakness, and who needs to be eliminated from within. To fight the enemy in the shadows, Sean will put together a strike team to light up the darkness— with nukes if necessary.

They will get the job done at any cost.

They will be White Ops.

Honestly, this is how space opera should be written. The universe is deep, the worldbuilding thorough, and that is just when you consider the ordinance the characters are toting around from conflict to conflict. The political intrigue here is intricately detailed even without the references to real life history, keeping a reader on his or her toes as he or she tries to figure out what will happen next. The plotting is thick, works like a finely tuned watch, and it is not solved when the lid is blown off the conspiracy, either. To find out what happens next you need to buy book 2, Politics Kills*.

White Ops starts as all good space opera does – with a bar fight. But this is not your typical mano-a-mano brawl; this is a human telepath versus a Velociraptor-on-steroids battle which wrecks everything in sight and then some. The plucky comic relief, Peter Sierra, soon proves to be a Badass Normal who lets his short height and apparent ineptitude to read incoming danger or be capable of handling it throw people off. In other words, he looks like a guy who will fold like a lawn chair and turn into a blubbering mess at the first threat.

Granted, he spends most of the bar fight dodging items thrown by a six-foot human and a much taller, stronger Velociraptor-type alien (the Velociraptor’s species is known as the Touri), so one could forgive him for appearing to be a wimp. In all the mad scrambling to avoid being bludgeoned he manages to extract the data that he was after, just as he and the two fellows tussling on the barroom floor planned.

Those two fellows are Fe’eshar Straczyn (he is the Touri) and Sean Patrick Ryan, the descendant of one of the heroes from A Pius Man*, which I reviewed here. Fe’eshar and Sean set the fight up to get information on the barkeep, who has been running guns on the side. In the middle of their operation to violently eradicate his weapons’ cache, however, Ryan discovers Pharmakoi weapons in the man’s hideaway. Unbeknownst to the rest of the civilized galaxy, the Pharmakoi are armed with weapons that may trounce not only mankind’s tech but that of the more advanced Renar, who made first contact with Earth centuries ago and are still the main power in the galaxy (though Earth is getting close).

Not long after this beautiful scrap the Pharmakoi War begins, with casualties mounting higher than anyone likes. Human Admiral Sherman Newcomb manages to beat them back but there’s a problem: the Pharmakoi’s weapons are extremely advanced. Both Renar and human scientists are astounded at just how good they are and want to reverse-engineer new weapons from them.

That, believe it or not, isn’t the problem. The issue is that the Pharmakoi themselves are centuries behind the tech they are using. In other words, there is no way they developed these weapons themselves; they do not have the knowledge nor the capacity to design or build them. Which means someone gave the Pharmakoi these weapons, and that someone is likely going to attack the civilized galaxy next.

Oh, joy.

Sean does not intend to wait around for these bigger, nastier aliens to come knocking and catch humanity with its trousers down. While Newcomb is stuck playing politics, he helps assemble a team that will search out and hit the enemy hard before they can hit Earth, the Renar, or any of the other species in the galaxy. If he has to blow up a planet or two along the way, so long as it is uninhabited, what’s the big deal?

He soon finds he really does have to blow up a planet. The aliens behind the Pharmakoi are extremely strong and fast, with a predilection for cannibalism. All other species are food, period, end of story. The only way to stop them in personal combat is to bring personal nukes with you and be prepared to use them.

Luckily, White Ops are good enough to get clear before everything goes up in flames.

Declan Finn delivers not only another wild ride full of fireworks, great fight scenes, and excellent characters, he manages to give readers a world deeper than most modern space operas in the bargain. A great deal of thought and care went into White Ops and it shows. There is enough material in the first few chapters of the book to write at least a couple of side stories or even short novels, with the novel demanding one pause between readings just to digest the sheer scope of the galaxy behind it

You cannot find that type of worldbuilding in space opera outside of Timothy Zahn, John Ringo, and perhaps a few others. Everyone else takes the space opera genre and recolors Star Wars, shifting pieces here and there or making it a sounding board for various schlock agendas we hear everywhere each day. White Ops takes the now-startling approach of saying, “We have a whole galaxy out here to play in. So let’s play!”

The aliens and the cultures are well thought out, too. They are believably non-human without devolving into stereotypes or being rehashes of previous aliens. It is difficult for me to think of an alien race comparable to the Touri in particular; the last time I saw dinosaurs in a sci-fi series, it was a Star Trek: Voyager* episode and they were human sized. Great for the actors and the makeup artists but nowhere near as interesting as the Touri, who are taller than humans and can carve through ship interiors with their nine-inch talons. The enemy creatures are also well-described, their motivations and their powers truly the stuff of nightmare fuel if you think about them. I certainly got chills reading about the monsters!

I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed this story and plan to read the sequel as soon as I may. White Ops ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so be prepared to snatch up the second and third book when you grab the first one. Based on the first novel alone, I can tell you they will be worth the purchase price!

*These are Amazon affiliate links. When you purchase something through them, this author receives a commission from Amazon at no extra charge to you, the buyer.

If you liked this article, friend Caroline Furlong on Facebook or follow her here at Her stories have been published in Cirsova’s Summer Special and Unbound III: Goodbye, Earth, while her poetry appeared in Organic Ink, Vol. 2. She has also had stories published in Planetary Anthologies Luna, Uranus, and Sol. Another story was released in Cirsova Magazine’s Summer Issue in 2020, and she recently had a story published in Storyhack Magazine’s 7th Issue and Cirsova Magazine’s 2021 Summer Issue. Order them today!

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