Tag Archive: Robert Brockway


Fall Into Books 10/5

FIB-favorite-authors

This is a hard one. Like, I can’t use favorite author as a recovery question because it changes pretty regularly based on what I’m reading at the time. So, let’s try to hammer down a top five four. That should be reasonably doable. Right?

So, in no particular order:

Seanan McGuire: I’ve been talking about Seanan McGuire’s books a lot lately, haven’t I? Her writing is aces the feel to it, whether leaning on folklore in Sparrow Hill Road or painting a picture of truly terrible parents in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, is great. She has protagonists who wouldn’t usually even be characters and this amazing work with the setting that makes it almost a character itself. It makes me really want to go back and read her October Daye books.

Tess Gerritsen: I admit, Tess Gerritsen makes this list almost as much for nostalgia’s sake as because I don’t remember reading a bad book from her since she swapped to writing thrillers. Even her romance novels weren’t bad, just very much a reflection of their genre and the tropes associated with it. So, not bad, just not for me. I’ve been reading the Rizzoli and Isles books since high school when I found a copy of Body Double in the basement and, since neither Mom or I could remember where it came from, figured it was as likely mine as hers and read it. Then I went back and found the first one at the Book Rack, The Surgeon, the Rizzoli and Isles book that wasn’t. It’s been a long ways since then. I still need to read I Know a Secret.

K. C. Alexander: The SINless novels, Necrotech and Nanoshock, have been something that I really, really want more of since chapter one. I’ve been wanting to talk about the end of Nanoshock since I finished it. And the way she handles her characters is both a treat and frustrating in the best way. Being right along with Riko in not knowing if she deserves the distrust from her former team or not, but still having to deal with the consequences of it, is pretty tops. I am still bouncing to find out what comes next and I’m going to do everything I can to find out, which in this case means backing her Patreon and reminding you all about how awesome her books are.

Robert Brockway: Somehow I missed Kill All Angels being released last December. But, I’ve reviewed and really enjoyed both of the other Vicious Cycle novels as well as his work on Cracked awhile back. The way he juggles timelines leads to interesting situations where both sets of characters learn a thing, but then the way they learn it or their reactions to that knowledge are vastly different. Plus, his character work is just fun.

 

So, house keeping post is coming up later in the week. I’ve been falling behind lately and want to address that. Switching over from that, I do have a review for you all today. Thanks to the folks at Tor, who provided me a review copy, here’s The Empty Ones. Enjoy!

The Empty Ones cover

You’ve seen them before. You’ve even seem the charming strangers with nothing behind their eyes. Carey’s been fighting them since the seventies. Kaitlyn just found out about them a couple weeks ago. To being hunted endlessly by the empty one that nearly killed them, they’ll have to track him down first. Meanwhile a blast from Carey’s past turns up and she doesn’t seem interested in helping save the day.

Robert Brockway’s The Empty Ones is a decent follow up to The Unnoticeables and a solid book in its own right. It’s definitely a middle book, though one that has the courtesy of tying up its own story before jumping for the next book.

It being a middle book is sort of where my big complaint comes from. With The Unnoticeables there was an awareness that there had to be more creepies than just what the protagonists were dealing with, but it was pretty well all small scale stuff. It was local, almost personal, to the protagonists so it felt huge and each thing they stumbled into built it up more and reinforced how out of their depths they were. This book doesn’t have that. It physically takes the protagonists out of their usual haunts and has them chasing the monsters. Having that makes the whole plot feel smaller, or less, even as the stakes are higher this time around.

Part of what makes this an issue is the difference between what the reader knows from the 2013 sections and what the reader learns from the 1978 sections of the book. In the first book, the split timelines worked really well because it allowed the reader to see something in action and then learn about it or vice versa. The parallels aren’t nearly as clean in The Empty Ones, so we get a lot of new information in the past that doesn’t really seem to inform the present or the previous book. It can feel  awkward even when it does land right, making scenes feel off kilter and characters feel not like themselves.

That’s a big part of what I meant when I said it’s solid in its own right but only a decent follow up. On its own, The Empty Ones has a lot of the same energy and punch as The Unnoticeables. The characters are still easy to care about. The monsters are still that extra spark of creepy. Even the new things that don’t totally work in context of the previous book are really cool if taken as part of a standalone novel. Reading it as a sequel though leads to comparisons and little rough spots throughout. The wonderful bittersweet ending to The Unnoticeables is suddenly fractured because we don’t have to wonder how Carey got from there to being nearly alone. Sammy Six’s story matters a whole lot less now because of new details. What’s lost is a lot of character stuff, and not necessarily little stuff at that.

On its own this is a really fun book. The antagonists are far stronger than the heroes, so the heroes have to be clever or just runaway. The characters feel very human or that perfect degree of just slightly wrong. The tone is by and large spot on. Emotive scenes hit the right chords, generally at the right times. And ultimately, while I like it better on its own than as a sequel, it makes me want to keep reading. I want to see where everything goes.

So, where does this leave The Empty Ones? As a standalone book it would be nearly a five out of five. The issue is that it follows a book that I would more than happily give a five to and, while it does well on its own, it doesn’t stack up to the book it follows. So that earns The Empty Ones a four out of five.