Reivew: “Kill All Angels” By Robert Brockway (Novel)

Well, I was still in the mood for the horror genre. So, I thought that I’d take a look Robert Brockway’s 2017 novel “Kill All Angels”, which is the third book in his “Unnoticeables” trilogy (you can see my reviews of the first two here and here).

Although I’d wanted to read this book for a few months, it’s probably the most expensive of the trilogy to find second-hand, so I had to wait until shortly after Christmas last year (and, yes, I write these reviews quite far in advance) before splashing out on a copy of it.

As you might expect with the concluding part of a trilogy, you have to read the first two books before reading this one. Although “Kill All Angels” contains a few small recaps, they’re more for people who have read the previous two books than for new readers. Whilst it is probably theoretically possible to read this book on it’s own, some parts will probably be confusing and many character-based moments won’t have nearly the impact that they should. So, read the other two books first.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Kill All Angels”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2017 Titan (UK) paperback edition of “Kill All Angels” that I read.

The novel begins in 1984, with our favourite homeless punk Carey hiding inside a large meat freezer with a terrified guy. Carey gives the guy a brief overview of the monsters (unnoticeables, empty ones and angels) that are secretly terrorising the world before convincing him to go outside and distract Jie, an “empty one”, who is waiting outside the freezer. Carey tells the guy that Jie is only interested in him and that she won’t harm anyone else. Of course, Jie tears the guy’s heart out and throws it at Carey. But, she misses and he leaps through a window and flees.

We then flash forwards to 2013. After the events of the previous novel, Carey, Jackie and Kaitlyn are travelling through the Arizona desert. When they stop, Kaitlyn wanders off and tries to meditate. To her surprise, it works and thanks to the power from the angels she’s defeated, she quite literally steps into a realm beyond time and space. During this experience, she meets a mystical being that she calls a space whale. The space whale shows her that the angels are a parasite that feeds on the multi-verse and tells her how to destroy them all…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it gets the mixture of horror and thrilling drama right. Although it is slightly more of an epic thriller about an unlikely group of people trying to save the multi-verse, there’s actually a decent amount of horror here this time round (unlike the second book, which skimped on the horror a little). Not only that, it is a brilliant conclusion to an awesome trilogy that also introduces a few cool new things too.

In terms of the novel’s horror elements, they’re a really good mixture of gory horror, body horror, character-based horror, the uncanny, cruel horror, monster horror, cosmic horror and a couple of creepily atmospheric locations. Although this novel isn’t outright scary, there are a decent number of disturbing moments that will probably make you grimace or wince slightly. Not only that, the horror elements also help to add suspense, intensity, scale and drama to the story’s thriller elements too 🙂

And, yes, this novel is a really good thriller too. In addition to the grand “save the multi-verse” plot, there are a good mixture of dramatic chase scenes, fight scenes and scenes where the main characters find themselves outnumbered by monsters. Not only that, after the previous few novels, Kaitlyn now has a number of fascinating supernatural powers that she is starting to learn how to use. Add to this a rather fast-paced writing style and a few alternating plot threads, and this novel is the kind of gripping – but wonderfully quirky – thriller story that you would expect from this series 🙂

And, as you’d expect from a novel in this series, there’s also a decent amount of comedy too. This mostly consists of irreverent humour, crude humour, funny dialogue, dark comedy, grisly slapstick and even a few moment of mildly politically incorrect humour too. Although this novel isn’t always as laugh out loud funny as you might expect (and actually has some fairly serious moments), this comedy really helps to add warmth, uniqueness and personality to the story 🙂

Plus, this novel also has it’s own unique “personality” when compared to the previous novels too. In addition to lots of scenes set in 1980s Chinatown/Koreatown in Los Angeles, the story also introduces a “friendly” empty one called Zang who helps out the main characters. Plus, the scenes involving the space whale and Kaitlyn’s new powers help to keep things unpredictable. However, for the most part, this story focuses on the monsters that we’ve all come to know from the previous two books. But, since the reader already knows about them, the story’s scenes of horror and drama can be a bit more confident, epic and streamlined 🙂

In terms of the novel’s characters, they are brilliant as ever. Not only do all of the main characters feel like realistic – but stylised – people with proper backstories, but we also get to learn more about our favourite main characters too. Zang is an absolutely brilliant character too – since he retains all of the scariness of his fellow empty ones whilst also being strangely likeable at the same time. Seriously, the characters are one of the things that really makes this novel such a joy to read 🙂

As for the writing, it is as good as ever too. Although, like with previous books in the trilogy, this one uses both frequent time jumps and the dreaded multiple first-person narrators, the time and narrator are clearly signposted at the beginning of each chapter which prevents it from becoming confusing. Not only that, the ending to the novel also sort of offers a possible explanation for why the trilogy uses this format. The actual narration itself is the kind of fast-paced, personality-filled informal narration that you’d expect from this series and it is an absolute joy to behold.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel excels too 🙂 At a fairly efficient 313 pages in length, it never really feels like a page is wasted. Likewise, thanks to the multiple plot threads, the writing style, the epic scale of the drama and a good number of mini-cliffhangers, this novel is the kind of gripping fast-paced horror thriller that begs to be binge-read 🙂

All in all, this is a really great conclusion to a brilliant trilogy 🙂 It gets the mixture of horror and thriller stuff right, it adds something extra to the series and it is the kind of spectacular, dramatic payoff that fans of the trilogy have been waiting for 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it might just get a five.

Review: “The Empty Ones” By Robert Brockway (Novel)

Well, shortly after I’d finished Robert Brockway’s punk horror thriller “The Unnoticeables” about a month earlier, I ended up finding a second-hand copy of the sequel – “The Empty Ones” (2016). Of course, I got distracted by other books and only got round to reading “The Empty Ones” a month later.

“The Empty Ones” was, after all, the book that had got me interested in the series after I’d read about it on an online list of recommended horror novels. Annoyingly though, copies of the third novel in the trilogy (“Kill All Angels”) were still a bit too expensive at the time of writing.

Since “The Empty Ones” is a sequel, it is recommended that you read “The Unnoticeables” first. Yes, this novel does contain a fair number of recaps – but it’s best to witness these moments first-hand and to get to know the characters (and the series’ mythos) before reading “The Empty Ones”.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at “The Empty Ones”. Needless to say, this review may contain SPOILERS.

This is the 2016 Titan Books (UK) paperback edition of “The Empty Ones” that I read.

The novel begins in Peru in 1984, with a brief scene showing a character called Meryll transforming someone into some kind of strange monster. Meryll then muses about being God.

The story then jumps to London in 1977. After the events of the previous novel, New York punk Carey has travelled there to check out the music. However, during a Ramones concert, he happens to spot an unnoticeable – a not quite human person who is instantly forgettable and who does the bidding of even worse creatures. Needless to say, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be having much of a holiday here.

Meanwhile, in 2013, ex-stuntwoman Kaitlyn is in Arizona with Jackie and Carey. Ever since the events of the previous book, the unnoticeables have been chasing her. Whilst spending a sleepless night in a motel, she happens to see an interview with Marco – the inhuman movie star villain of the previous book – on TV. He is heading to Mexico to film something. Determined not to run any more, Kaitlyn decides that she needs to travel to Mexico and deal with Marco once and for all….

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is better than “The Unnoticeables” was 🙂 In addition to having some wonderfully grotesque horror elements, it is more of a focused and action-packed thriller story than I’d expected. The novel also keeps the punk attitude and humour of the previous novel too 🙂

As for the novel’s horror elements, they mostly consist of gory horror, paranomal horror, monster horror and/or body horror, with a bit of suspenseful horror thrown in too. Although the novel also contains a bit of Lovecraftian cosmic horror and a few uncanny not quite human characters, there is slightly less of an emphasis on horror in this novel than in the previous one.

The novel’s thriller elements are a lot more prominent though. Not only are there quite a few fast-paced fights with and/or escapes from monsters, but there’s also a fair number of interesting mini cliffhangers, short chapters, dangerous situations and other stuff like that. One cool thing about the novel being set in several time periods is that it allows for some intriguing plot twists too (eg: In 1978, Carey really likes one of the people he meets. But, when he sees her again in 2013, they are enemies etc..).

Like with “The Unnoticeables”, this novel also contains a fair amount of humour too. Although most of this consists of subtle, irreverent and/or puerile humour, there are also some hilarious moments of physical comedy too. Whether it is a chapter narrated by Marco where he suddenly decides that the most efficient way to chase Carey is to literally crawl along the streets of a city, or a hilariously gross mutation-based scene set in a hotel in the 1980s, this novel can be pretty funny at times 🙂

Another interesting thing about this novel is that it expands a little on the mythos established in “The Unnoticeables”. For example, we get to learn why Kaitlyn’s sixth finger is so important, how to defeat the seemingly invincible “empty ones” etc.. Another cool thing about this novel is that, when Carey travels to London, the punks there have different names for the monsters (eg: faceless, husks, sludge and flares) than the NY punks do. Not only that, there are a lot more of them in the crowded streets of London too.

Although most of the novel takes place in both 2013 and 1978, there are also a few brief scenes set in the 1980s and 1990s that help to add atmosphere and characterisation. Like in the previous novel, the 1970s scenes are the best in the novel – filled with fast-paced drama, punk stuff, weird characters and atmosphere. Even so, the scenes set in 2013 were a bit more fast-paced and gripping than I had expected.

In terms of the characters, the main characters get a reasonable amount of characterisation whilst still being very recognisable to readers of the previous book. Another cool thing is that, in the scenes set in London, Carey seems even more like Vyvyan from “The Young Ones” than usual. The novel also introduces a couple of new characters too – such as a crusty old man called Tub and a punk called Meryll. Meryll has a really fascinating character arc and she also takes part in some of the novel’s most badass fight scenes too.

In terms of the writing, this novel uses a similar style to “The Unnoticeables”. In other words, although it uses the dreaded multiple first-person narrators, both the narrator and the year they are living in are usually clearly signposted (so, it isn’t too confusing). Likewise, the novel is also written in the kind of informal style that you’d expect from a punk thriller novel 🙂

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is pretty good. At a fairly efficient 284 pages, the story never feels too long. Likewise, the story’s pacing feels a lot more consistently thrilling than in “The Unnoticeables” too 🙂

All in all, this is a really fun thriller novel that is even better than “The Unnoticeables” was 🙂 Yes, there was slightly less horror than I’d expected, but it’s still a really cool mixture of the punk, horror and thriller genres 🙂

If I had to five it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “The Unnoticeables” By Robert Brockway (Novel)

Well, I was still in the mood for horror fiction, so I thought that I’d check out a second-hand copy of Robert Brockway’s 2015 novel “The Unnoticeables” that I ended up getting after I saw an intriguing description of the novel’s sequel (“The Empty Ones”, which is also on my to-read pile) on a list of recommended horror novels online.

So, let’s take a look at “The Unnoticeables”. Needless to say, this review may contain SPOILERS.

This is the 2015 Titan Books (UK) paperback edition of “The Unnoticeables” that I read.

The novel begins with a bizarre description of an unknown man being shot by an angel. However, instead of dying from the bullet wound, he suddenly finds that strange things start happening to his mind.

The story then focuses on New York City in the summer of 1977. A punk dude called Carey is hanging out outside a nightclub with some of his friends, when he decides to meet up with a woman called Debbie who might have some drugs for him in a nearby alleyway. However, when he reaches her, she is being melted by a mysterious monster made out of tar and cog-wheels. Angered by this new development, Carey sets the monster on fire.

In Los Angeles in 2013, waitress and part-time stuntwoman Kaitlyn is having a bad day. Not only has she not had any stunt work for weeks, but she’s also just noticed a peeping tom outside her window. However, soon after she storms out of the house with a knife to confront the voyeur, an angel appears beside him and kills him….

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it is a unique, bizarre and transgressive punk-themed horror thriller 🙂 Although it isn’t a perfect novel and it certainly isn’t for everyone, it has some really cool moments, an awesome atmosphere during some parts of the story and a brain-twistingly surreal plot that only really starts to make sense near the end of the book.

I should probably start by talking about the novel’s horror elements. This novel contains a rather unsettling mixture of well-crafted paranormal horror, philosophical horror, gruesome horror, surreal horror/body horror, sexual horror, Lovecraftian cosmic horror, suspenseful horror and character-based horror. Whilst this novel isn’t outright scary, it contains quite a few uncomfortably disturbing scenes, ominous moments and creepy moments of intellectual dread.

The main source of this novel’s horror is the concept of inhuman, mechanical utilitarianism – and this brings me on to the novel’s satirical elements. The story’s scenes of people being reduced to “efficient” algorithms are an absolutely brilliant criticism of modern social media/ tech companies. Likewise, the fact that the novel’s “empty” villains can create hordes of soulless, unnoticeable followers is also a brilliantly scathing comment about social media, fame etc… too.

Not only that, one of the novel’s creepiest villains (a washed-up celebrity called Marco) is also used as an eerily prescient comment about all of the scandals in the US film industry during 2017/18. In fact, this novel is basically a giant middle finger to Hollywood and popular culture in general. All of this irreverent satire also fits in really well with the novel’s punk atmosphere and really helps to add depth to the novel too.

The novel’s thriller elements are interesting too. Whilst this novel isn’t an ultra-fast paced thriller novel, there are enough interesting mysteries and moments of suspenseful horror and drama to keep the story compelling. In classic thriller fashion, almost every chapter alternates between two story threads (set in 1977 and 2013). But, although these two storylines connect with each other in interesting ways, they can sometimes parallel each other a little bit too closely – which can make a few scenes feel a bit repetitive.

Still, one of the things I really loved about this novel was it’s atmosphere. The scenes set in 1977 really make you feel like you’re hanging out with an anarchic group of punks and I really wish that the whole novel had focused on these awesome story segments. By contrast, the more modern scenes set in 2013 feel a bit dull and “ordinary” by comparison.

In terms of the characters, they’re really interesting. One of the major themes of this novel is that it is our flaws, imperfections and “inefficiencies” that really make us human. So, the main characters are a really intriguing bunch of misfits 🙂 By contrast, the novel’s villains are a disturbing collection of soulless beings, creepy stalkers, hollow celebrities, fanatical cultists and/or bizarre monsters.

In terms of the writing, this novel is interesting. Although this novel uses the dreaded multiple first-person narrators, it thankfully clearly signposts which character is narrating each chapter – so this doesn’t get too confusing. Likewise, all of the narration in this novel uses a wonderfully informal and distinctive narrative voice which not only adds personality and humour to the story, but also helps to keep the story moving at a reasonable pace too.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is a bit of a mixed bag though. At a wonderfully efficient 283 pages in length, this novel doesn’t feel too long. However, whilst the beginning and ending of this story are really compelling, the middle parts didn’t really seem to be quite as gripping. Likewise, the occasional appearance of similar events in both of the novel’s storylines can feel a little bit repetitive at times.

All in all, this is an intriguingly weird punk-themed horror novel. Yes, it isn’t perfect and it probably isn’t for everyone, but this novel has an interestingly bizarre premise, a wonderful atmosphere (in the 1970s punk segments, at least) and some great narration.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.