Book Review : Robert Brockway - The Unnoticeables (2016)
Here's something I found out recently: the universe is a problem.
Robert Brockway is the long-tenured, senior editor of Cracked, a website known for being the Greatest Thing on Earth for employed adults experiencing a violent case of Thursday afternoon. I've been a fan of his writing since I joined the workforce last decade. Brockway, like everyone else on internet, happens to write fiction too. I wasn't aware of that fact until a couple weeks ago. The Unnoticeables is technically his debut novel although he's dabbled with self publishing in the past. It's a great example of dark fantasy that can be both entertaining and pertinent for post-pubescent audiences. I wouldn't say The Unnoticeables was much more than a good time, but it did move the needle here and there. It sure is the best time I've had with a dark fantasy novel since reading Chuck Wendig a couple years ago.
My fellow nerds who played White Wolf's World Of Darkness role playing games will "get" The Unnoticeables immediately. It features two parallel storylines set in 1977 and 2013. The former is starring Carey, an angry New York City punk rocker fed up with seeing his friends getting abducted and murdered by otherworldly creatures and the latter is starring Kaitlyn, a young woman who came to Hollywood to find love, success and the American dream only to find drama, angels and a boyfriend that reinvents the term "abusive". What Carey and Kaitlyn have in common is that they're been in contact with the beings watching over us. They're not angels. They're not even benevolent or loving or anything like that. They're being kind of assholes to our protagonists, to be honest.
I love the idea of the divine and the human realm having different agendas. That angels, or whatever we call them, are not looking to protect their "assigned human" or whatever it is we're lead to believe. The Unnoticeables stands out from your every day dark fantasy novel because it features humans, not werewolves and whatnot, battling an unknown force because their existence have become a redundancy in the grand scheme of things. There is no battle between good and evil in Robert Brockway's debut novel. Only one for survival and the odds are pretty unfair. The Unnoticeables is a more "adult" spin on dark fantasy novels. One that doesn't comfort the reader into necessarily thinking he's fighting the good fight. It's a solid metaphor for our system-based society that turns people into parasites if they refuse to live a certain lifestyle. The Unnoticeables has a staying power most dark fantasy novels don't have because its disquieting statement and its implications on the reader himself.
Since The Unnoticeables has dueling storylines, it's kind of a busy novel. This kind of novel structure can be elating when you start connecting the dots, but most times it turns the following way: one narrative is more interesting than the other for the reader. Personally, I liked Kaitlyn's story better because of the Hollywood angle. The artificial people, the unexpected and heartbreaking fracture of her reality and perhaps the best and freakiest aspect of the entire novel: Kaitlyn's boyfriend Marco. I know I'm somewhat of a villainologist, but holy shit! Is that guy terrifying of what? I would say The Unnoticeables is a fast paced novel, but it sure takes its sweet time connecting the dots and this is perhaps what bugged me the most about the novel. It's nothing major, but I thought it was entangled in its own plot a little bit and bound by the requirement to keep its threat unknowable. That's why I dug Marco so much: he gave a face to Kaitlyn's demise and that face delivered some SWEET terror.
There are no centaurs walking the street in imaginary realms in The Unnoticeables. There are no constantly shirtless werewolves and hypersexual huntresses in uncomfortable looking leather apparel. There's not even a love story, if you can image. Well, there isn't a nice one anyway. The Unnoticeables definitely isn't your typical dark fantasy novel. It has a lot in common with supernatural horror too. I've enjoyed my time with it and got a kick out of its ideas although I can't say it appealed to me on a visceral level. It felt a little too busy and hyperactive to me. I thought there was material for more than one book in there. YOU might very well get a stronger kick out of it than I did. The Unnoticeables WILL put your entire relationship to the universe in perspective and spark some non-academic discussion between its readers. There is already a sequel titled The Empty Ones which came out a month ago. My experience with The Unnoticeables might JUST have been intriguing enough for me to check it out!