** I received a copy of The Unnoticeables by Robert Brockway from Agent Sam Morgan in exchange for an honest review**
And, quite honestly, I don’t even know how to review this thing.
I guess we’ll start with a confession. Had I stumbled upon this book in my local bookstore and perused the back cover, I probably would have placed it back down and walked away slowly, lest I suddenly start projectile vomiting from alcohol poisoning, found my hair had become a blue mohawk and my clothes shredded, my vocabulary shrinking to where every noun, adjective and verb was some variation of “fuck” and somehow lost my virginity. Just from the back cover, I felt all of these were true risks. Though it sounded interesting–and particularly messed up–I probably would have sauntered over to the high fantasy section and picked up a whopping 800-page beast to consume my soul for a few days instead.
So when I discovered this book was one within the box of lovelies sent to me to review, thanks to my slowly reading through and reviewing all the Jabberwocky authors and the generosity of Sam, and I read the back cover, I was a bit apprehensive. Especially when the sequel was sent alongside it. This was totally not my cup of tea. I’m a straight edge kid who hasn’t even had her first kiss yet and my closest stint to punk rock (aside from the music that I still thrive to) was back during the 7th grade when I went through my emo-stage. Even with the threat of “tar monsters and unkillable psychopaths” piquing my interest, I was so convinced that this would be be cause of my first negative review.
I hate writing negative reviews.
“You could just not drink,” Thing 2 offered from the living room.
We all stared at her like she’d opened her mouth and a bunch of snakes had come flying out.
“Life is a series of choices,” Wash explained to her, patiently; “that is not one of them.”
(This was on page 35 and did have me snorting. I would not have been welcomed with this group of friends.)
I read the first 100 pages in one sitting.
I was almost late to work yesterday–seriously, barely made it with five minutes to spare–because I just wanted to finish one more chapter.
I laughed aloud on multiple occasions, felt absolutely repulsed at least twice, flinched involuntarily every other page, actually had my heart pounding once and basically devoured the book in a manner of 48 hours and am already 100 pages into The Empty Ones, the second book in The Vicious Circuit trilogy.
And yet, despite being halfway convinced that this book was way too far out of my comfort zone and not capable of being enjoyed by a lame straight-edge loner like myself, I find myself writing a very positive review when I assumed it was going to be negative. Because while this was definitely not my cup of tea–it’s the strongest whisky you’ve ever tasted when you only drink water–I found myself enjoying it all the while.
How is that possible?
I can give you three reasons why you should check this book out, even if it scares you a bit doing so and even if, by the end of it, you’re still not entirely sure what you just read or how you should feel about it (and you find the distinct need to go take a shower, for whatever reason): the characters, the time switching and the horror.
Despite being totally unable to connect with the characters like I wish to, I still found myself growing attached to them. Carey and his band of misfits from 1977 was a group that I would be totally intimidated to meet in real life because I’d have no idea how to handle them, but as I kept reading, I enjoyed their antics. I loved that Carey considered half of the group parasites (and the nicknames for the parasites were awesome). Jezza and his attempt to woo the ladies by having a fake Cockney accent (and more so, Carey’s musings about that fact) was gold and gave me the first flare of hope that I might really enjoy this book. Wash was my favorite. Hands down. You’ll have to read it to understand why.
“The cops don’t close the subway stations. For somebody that talks like a chimney sweep, you sure don’t know fuck-all about the English.”
Flash forward to 2013 where we meet stunt woman who is forced to be a waitress (because she lives in LA and who can actually find the work that fulfills their dream job when they live in LA?) named Kaitlyn. I feel for her and what she’s dealing with and what’s she going through. It’s hard not to, especially once her life really goes bottoms up and she’s forced to deal with the Unnoticables and Empty Ones. Undoubtedly, Kaitlyn is who I rooted for the most throughout.
Obviously, there is a bit of a time jump, between 1977 and 2013. Each chapter switches between those times and POVs, and does so in a way that I particularly enjoyed. As a writer, I always love when I read a writer who is able to jump between time and make it feel flawless. Mr. Brockway did just that and I really, really enjoyed it.
And last, but not least, was the horror aspect, the element that took a novel set in real locations with references to real pop culture and make it a setting with flashes of the fantastic; if the fantastic are creatures masked as humans who want to consume your soul, your emotions, your humanity and “solve” you in some of the most gruesome ways possible. I’m a gruesome writer. Though not a fan of horror in general, that doesn’t mean I’m easily revolved or grossed out. Yet on multiple occasions, I cringed at what was happening, images in my head a bit too real for my comfort. And that scene where this character (to not give it away) saw eyes not in their room, not standing across from them, but on their bed…yeah, I froze with a chip midway towards my mouth, completely not okay what was happening at that moment. Hell, I’m still not. I was repulsed, more than once. And that isn’t a bad thing. Honestly, I’m impressed. That’s hard to do. And Brockway did it, multiple times.
This was a book that, in all honesty, I didn’t think I would enjoy. It’s a book that never would have found its way into my hands (and seared into my brain, which I’m still debating whether that’s a good or a bad thing) had Sam not sent it to me and I’m glad he did. I didn’t even know comedic horror was a genre, let alone something that could be pulled off well. But Mr. Brockway does a great job, as evident by the fact that I’ve already inhaled a third of the second book.
And while I’m not going to lie and say I’m going to miss the constant stream of dick jokes once I move on from The Vicious Circuit to read something more within my normal tastes, it would also be a lie to claim that, once I finish The Empty Ones, that I won’t be looking forward to the last book of the trilogy, once it comes out.