Waiting On Wednesday: Communication Failure

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where we readers salivate over the books we wish were on our bookshelves yesterday.

This week’s victim: Joe Zieja’s Communication Failure
Publication Date: November 7th, 2017 by Saga Press

In this sequel to Mechanical Failure, Captain Rogers, despite his best attempts to do otherwise, has become the acting admiral of the 331st Meridan fleet. His first task: worrying. A lot.

The rival Thelicosan fleet, under the influence of bad intelligence, a forbidden romance, and a communication officer with an eardrum injury, is about to break a two-hundred-year-old nonaggression pact. They have offered a vague, easily misinterpreted message: “We’re invading.” Rogers isn’t sure, but he thinks that’s probably bad.

War is hell, especially when you’ve forgotten how to fight one.

Why am I so excited for this book?

Mostly because I want more hilarious droids back in my life.

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Also, did you actually read that overview quoted above? How can you not be excited about a book that includes (but no doubt is not limited to) “bad intelligence, a forbidden romance, and a communication officer with an eardrum injury”? I’m hoping that forbidden romance includes a certain character who I adored from the first book, Mechanical Failure. I also wouldn’t mind if the entire book was just focused on Deet. Don’t get me wrong, Captain Rogers (or should I say, Admiral Rogers?) is one hilarious character in his own right. But he can’t replace my love for Deet.

Mechanical Failure got me hooked with a fantastic cast of characters, enough laughter that I counted reading that book as my ab workout for the week and with such an ending that I was left desperate for more. I’m still desperate, as the book doesn’t come out for a couple more months, but we are ever closer to returning to such a hilarious and fantastic universe that I wish I never had to leave. So bring on the antics of Communication Failure. I’m most certainly ready for them.

Read on!

PS: That cover? *heart eyes*

Mechanical Failure

**I received a copy of Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja from Agent Sam Morgan in exchange for an honest review**

ANGELIC FECAL MATTER*, this book was awesome.

I first discovered this book was a thing when I saw it being advertised on Twitter by a few agents and writers I follow. I checked out the blurb and knew it was a book that I wanted to read. So when I got the book in the mail from Sam, as part of a care package of books to review, I was absolutely and totally stoked (as I hadn’t heard of most of the other books). Then, when I met the author Joe Zieja at WorldCon and he genuinely listened to me when I spoke with him for a few minutes about my own writing in-between panels, my respect went up even more (because how many authors do you meet in person who actually listen about your own projects and give you thoughtful responses?), which raised my excitement for this book even more. By the time I finally got around to picking up this and actually dived in, my expectations were higher than what I hold for most books and I knew I would be well impressed if it actually managed to match those expectations.

Spoiler: Mechanical Failure totally did.

It’s a science fiction comedy of errors that was refreshing and absolutely mental at the same time. The level of competent incompetence–I know, sounds crazy, but it was totally a thing–was an element I’ve never experienced in a book before and I had no idea how to tackle. In the end, I mostly just shook my head as Roger missed something obvious and laughed aloud at what resulted from the error.

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I had the lovely coincidence to be reading this book whilst I decided to start replaying the Mass Effect video game series. Which, if you’re into video games, I think reading this while playing that is an absolute must, because the juxtaposition just levels up the natural hilarity within Mechanical Failure. If you’re familiar with the games, you’ll understand why. Mass Effect focuses on the life of Commander Shepard, first human Spectre, Commander in the Alliance and of the Normandy, and savior of not only the human race, but of all sentient beings in the galaxy. Her team is handpicked and highly trained. She is competent, charismatic, a mastermind killing machine and either respected or hated by the entire galaxy for her heroism, sacrifice and prowess.

Mechanical Failure features Sergeant R. Wilson Rogers.

Hint: he is nothing like Commander Shepard.

Rogers just wants to be a con man. He did his stint in the military and he is perfectly content to live out the rest of his days cheating pirates and ruining his liver, one Jasker 120 at a time. Of course, he doesn’t get what he wants and ends up serving back with the military. Except the military appears to be organized and mobilizing for war; a war that doesn’t exist. The longer Rogers stays aboard and serves on the Flagship, the more he realizes that what appears to be a functional military regime isn’t the case in the slightest. And it’s up to him to fix it while trying to uncover the actual threat that no one is prepared to fight, because they are too busy inaptly preparing for a war that isn’t happening.

The laughter that results, my friends, is real.

Of course, like any fantastic novel, the true gems are the characters and this cast is something special. My particular favorites included Deet, my favorite droid in the galaxy, for his attempts at humor, his odd humanity and his inability to scream EXPLETIVE. Hart for his poor cooking and spunk. Freakin’ Tunger, for reasons I cannot say, lest they spoil the book for you. Mailn, for additional reasons that I cannot say, due to additional spoils. Admiral Klein; again, shrouded in secrecy as to why, as to discourage spoilers (but I will give you a hint: it involves toast). And, of course, the Viking.

Holy Lord, did I freakin’ love the Viking.

I took my time reading Mechanical Failure because it was such a joy to read** and I often found myself reading it to escape from my current stresses in RL. Can’t afford paying my bills? Read about Rogers’ first meal back on the Flagship. Depression and anxiety taking some swings at me? Read about Rogers trying to function without gravity. Overwhelmed with stress and feeling like my life life is falling apart and I can’t keep up? Read about Rogers versus Barbor Bot.

This book is fantastic. It’s hilarious and the start of the Epic Failure trilogy, thankfully. I would not be content if this was a standalone. I couldn’t be more excited for when the next two books come out (hopefully sooner rather than later). But I’m particularly grateful for Mechanical Failure for being there for me to read and enjoy when my own life seemed impossible to deal with and reminding me that I can handle it, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Or at least it helping me put things in perspective.

At least I’m not stuck eating SEWR rats.

Read on!

* If you have no idea what this is meant to mean, read Mechanical Failure and give Deet my fondest hello. You’ll understand. Or not, potentially. That’s the fun of it.
** It didn’t take me weeks to read because I often chose to play Mass Effect instead. No, that is definitely not the case….(thank goodness no droids are around me or they’d definitely be outputting CALL FUNCTION: EXPOSE LIES).

The Empty Ones

** Received a copy of The Empty Ones by Robert Brockway from Agent Sam Morgan in exchange for honest review**

It’s a Saturday. It’s a glorious day outside; feels like crisp October weather despite being the second week of September. Tiny hooligans that belong to the neighbors I’ve never met scream and frolic outside. It’s my day off and my options of how to spend that day are limitless, only growing because of the beautiful weather. So how do I choose to spend it?

Continuing to read one of the oddest book series I’ve ever read.

I take that back. The oddest book I have ever read was back during undergrad and our questionably-all-there-but-we-liked-him-anyway professor made us read The Sugar Frosted Nutsack by Mark Leyner. But The Vicious Circuit is a close second, most definitely.

I reviewed the first of the trilogy, The Unnoticeables, hardly 24 hours ago. It’s a comedic horror mash-up of punk rock, alcohol, sexual innuendos, a lot of talking about sex without anyone actually getting laid, colorful insults and nameless creatures pretending to be human beings that destroy your soul and test the boundaries of what grotesque deaths can be achieved by distorting and corrupting the human body. It was a book that I had no intention of enjoying yet I enjoyed it anyway, falling prey to Mr. Brockway’s dark magic and lies.

Obviously, the spell has stuck, as I liked The Empty Ones even more.

The Empty Ones (Vicious Circuit, #2)

However, unhelpfully, I can’t describe particularly why. Perhaps because I sorta knew what I was getting into, so the shock factor and surprise present for the first book weren’t as strong this time around. Perhaps it is because I found the setting more exciting. Perhaps its because I loved the way it was written, giving the readers info that the characters didn’t know yet, foreshadowing us on what was going to happen and making us think, “Oh shit, stop hitting on her, you idiot, she’s probably going to try and kill you later.” Actually, it’s probably a combination of all of these things.

The first book is split between NYC and LA, while this is split between England and Mexico. Carey and Randall, in 1978, have chased down Gus and his band, intent on revenge. They find themselves submersed in the English punk rock scene, which was fantastic. I constantly wished Jezza was there to experience it and would have loved to see the Brits rip him a new one. Gosh, I would have killed for that scene. But what I loved the most was Meryll. She’s a rocker that Carey tries to save, only to get saved by her. She’s a knowledgeable badass who kills it with her brass knuckles. She’s my favorite character, by far.

Meanwhile, in 2013, Kaitlyn, Carey and Jackie choose to hunt instead of waiting to be hunted, tracking Marco to Mexico. Besides the fact that I’m rooting for Kaitlyn every chance I get, I loved that this section allowed us to see some chapters from Jackie’s perspective (same as how we also saw some of Randall’s perspective in 1978). For both Jackie and Randall, those chapters actually made me like them both less as characters, which isn’t a bad thing. It just hardened my loyalty to Carey and Kaitlyn (even though I absolutely despite 1978 Carey yet actually like 2013 Carey; weird, I know).

What I loved the most, though, was the fact that readers were dropped hints in Meryll’s chapters that clued us into things that were going to happen later, even though the characters were unaware. Personally, I think this outside awareness by readers juxtaposed to inside ignorance by characters creates such a beautiful tension that otherwise wouldn’t exist. I’ve tried so unsuccessfully to build this type of tension in my own writing, so I absolutely love seeing a writer do it well.

Not only did I enjoy the new characters/perspectives and continued to enjoy the way it was written, but I was still impressed by how grotesque some of these scenes were. I made the mistake of eating lunch while I read the second half of the book. I’m not going to spoil anything for you as to what happens, but I can tell you this: my lunch was spoiled for me. As someone with an iron stomach, I am just so impressed how Brockway continually finds different ways to make me feel revolted. I feel challenged to amp up my own game.

All in all, I thought The Empty Ones picked up perfectly after The Unnoticeables left off and improved on all the elements that made The Unnoticeables enjoyable in the first place. It makes me even more excited for when the final book comes out–something I never thought I’d admit when I first learned what book one was about, being so far out of my comfort zone.

Well done, Mr. Brockway. Well done.

Read on!

The Unnoticeables

** 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.)

And yet…

I read the first 100 pages in one sitting.

And yet…

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.

And yet…

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.

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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.

Read on!