Weston Ochese’s American Golem was one of my favorite stories from the Operation Arcana collection and as a result I was excited to give Seal Team 666 a shot. Unfortunately, I wanted to like Seal Team 666 far more than I actually did. The novel opens up with Cadet Jack Walker, nearing completion of SEAL training, suddenly yanked out of said training and attached to titular Seal Team 666 for a covert mission. Walker, finds himself suddenly part of a strange new world where everything that goes bump in the night is real. The novel’s primary threat centers on a cult being led by a man possessed by an ancient spirit and the efforts of Seal Team 666 to bring him down.
My primary problem with Seal Team 666 has to do with a logical inconsistency. We are informed in the novel that the group has been in existence, at least in one form or another, since the beginning of our country. The very existence of the team acknowledges that magic, demons, and monsters are very real things. They can be killed or otherwise disposed of, with great difficulty, using conventional weapons. However, it is never adequately explained (at least that I recall) how a 200-year-old covert ops group hasn’t yet found a way to fight fire with fire. There aren’t any magicians on staff that we see and the team’s intelligence seems to come from conventional means. This just feels weird to me. This element was a thorn in my side the whole time I was reading the novel. My strong reaction to this could be that I’ve just been reading too much fantasy and science fiction of late and Ochese is more concerned with a world where the supernatural is a corrupting force that usually results in messy ends. Seal Team 666’s action sequences certainly bear this theory out I just wish it had been more firmly established over the course of the novel itself.
Ochese has a strong sense of action throughout the novel. He keeps the horrors fresh and the pace moving throughout which makes for a quick read. Moments of horror are leavened a bit by dashes of humor either with the joking between members of the team or with the slap-stick, blood spattered humor familiar to fans of horror movies; a particular scene involving a fight with tiny homunculi reminded me of Ash’s fight with his own severed hand from Evil Dead 2, or the mini-Ash army from Army of Darkness. Characterization is slow with Walker’s past slowly helping to define the shape of his personality and his drive to become a SEAL. Ochese is slow to build up the other members of the team and the characterization of the team and the supporting cast never goes deeper than surface level.
Seal Team 666 leans a bit heavily towards the action over horror. While there are horrific creatures who commit horrific acts scattered throughout the novel it never quite manages to fully capture the atmosphere of dread and fear that marks the best horror fiction. Neither does the novel capture the sense of wonder present in many fantasy novels. The best horror section of the novel comes in the flashbacks to Walker’s past, the subject of which I won’t spoil, but I would love to read a longer bit of fiction focused on Walker’s horrific childhood experience. Fans of military fiction and thrillers who aren’t afraid of blood and violence should enjoy Seal Team 666 and it’s easy to see why the film rights were optioned. While it wasn’t as good as I was hoping it to be Seal Team 666 is an entertaining, exciting read and is definitely a series I’ll be returning to in the future.