The Unnoticeables by Robert Brockway has something for everyone, and would probably make a great television series. It takes place in two different time periods with two different protagonists (who eventually meet up), and has a great sci-fi/urban fantasy mesh that’s really hard to define, but really fun to piece together. Do you like poking fun at Hollywood? How about the desolation of punk culture in the 1970s? Do you like creepy, soul-sucking beings? (Who doesn’t, really.) Humor and horror? And why did the book make me think of Xena: Warrior Princess? Here are just a few things you might enjoy from The Unnoticeables.
(Minor spoilers for the book below.)
The main character from present day (or 2013, to be more precise) in The Unnoticeables is Kaitlyn, who happens to be a Hollywood stunt woman. Or, she’s trying to be. She’s going through a dry patch at work (and waiting tables and being the world’s worst bartender in the meantime—sour mix, really?), but her abilities are what make her place in the story so exciting. After all, who has the true ability to be an action hero in their real life? Not the actor who plays a character, but the person responsible for taking every hit and fall on a set. And she can drive motorcycles like a boss, too. If you’re a fan of the women who bring characters like Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and Furiosa to life, Kaitlyn is reason enough to pick up the book.
Did I mention that two characters describe her as a Buffy-meets-early-days-Linda-Hamilton sort of woman? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s one of the dictionary definitions of “cool.”
2. You’re Not Paranoid—They Really Are Out to Get You
Do you like stories about how our paranoia sometimes plays out into real-life nightmares? Not like “the moon landing wasn’t real” or “Area 51 has a city’s worth of aliens milling around it” kind of paranoia, but the kind where you wonder if the person who smiles too much at you in the elevator might secretly be a serial killer?
They probably are. Not in the way you think, of course. It’s a bit more monstrous than plain-old Silence of the Lambs-esque murder. Basically, don’t trust people you meet at film industry parties. Or concert venues. We all know that, right?
3. The Wonderful World of Nihilism and Punk Rock
Fan of the Sex Pistols, or any of the premiere punk acts of the 70s? Maybe you weren’t into the music itself, but more into the safety-pins-as-jewelry/let’s-get-messed-up/I-like-glue-in-my-hair part? Carey—our humble protagonist in the 1977 part of the novel—is a punk living in New York City with a cadre of friends who can afford beer and not much else. This look back on youth culture in the late 70s is incredibly vibrant, thanks in part to the author’s personal experience (as it says in the dedication). The cultural code, the nicknames and fashion, the lack of direction and sense of malcontent is all here in its filthy glory. From a subculture that pushed back against the naiveté of the swinging sixties, it’s a great window into a time and place not so far behind us.
4. Cultural Excess and Extremes
If you think The Stepford Wives is a good time, there are parts of this book that will hit your funny bone just so. There are people out to get Carey and Kaitlyn, as I might have mentioned—though calling them “people” is kind. And they have a distinctly uncanny vibe to them. All smiles, all murder, and a lack of substance that we might call literal. These people, which Carey calls the “Empty Ones” are full of off-color cliches and insults and violence, a strange reflection of the world that feels off… but is horrifying for how close it comes to reality.
Think a party in the Capitol of Panem, but if it were conceived by Michael Moorcock. Yeah, it’s that disturbing.
5. Body Horror
Those Empty Ones I mentioned above are relatively indestructible. But if someone is essentially human-shaped and you hit them with a truck, you’ve got a few options; you either teleport, turn into goo like the T-1000, or you have to get a little creative with rearranging your limbs. Brockway excels at these grotesque descriptions, and it gives the novel an edge that flips it from “creepy” to “oh god oh god I can’t believe I just imagined that really happening, brain, why would you betray me like that?” If you’re into gross zombie films or even horror stories with horrible contortionist enemies, this is right up your street.
6. New York/L.A…. I Love You/Hate You
Two of America’s greatest cities, and about as many opinions on them as there are people. Carey’s section of the story takes place in New York, and while he is happy to live there, it’s not exactly a sunny depiction of NYC. It’s dangerous, unkempt, full of garbage and rotting smells. It’s a place where kids go to vanish, where the neglected amble through city streets, but still the place where everyone on your block knows you by name.
Kaitlyn is living in L.A. for the sake of her career, and while her BFF is having a ball becoming an actress, Kaitlyn is having none of the plastic Hollywood sheen. It’s a place where dreams come true, but it’s also the seat of people who have more money than they could ever deserve, who spend it on frivolous pursuits and take time out of their days to belittle those who have less. It’s the movie magic syndrome crossed with everything that we despise about the rich and powerful.
New York, Los Angeles. You’re both so easy to love-hate.