In the Unoticeables Robert Brockway gave the gift that every horror fan secretly hopes for—a new and exciting horror mythos. The fact that the gift was wrapped in layers and layers of action, comedy, swearing, suspense and swearing was an attractive bonus. But, at its core, the story of the super beings that mathematically syphon the life force of their victims, and the punks that throw beer cans at them, was too compelling not to be further explored in a sequel.
While Brockway continues to build on the foundations of the wild and esoteric horror concepts that made the Unoticeables such a stand out work of fiction, he never lets the pace drop. You can almost hear him pulling back on the throttle as our heroes charge head long into greater odds, deeper mysteries and so, so much blood. Other than a few expository breathers, The Empty Ones does not stop moving, it raises the stakes and hits the ground running.
After barely surviving the events of the first book, Kaitlyn and Carey decide to take the fight to the enemy, only to find that that enemy exists at a number far beyond their nightmares. Having bit off more than they can chew, they do what they do best and keep biting. But there is more to learn about the Angels than they realise, and Kaitlyn soon finds that she is part of a battle that may have been waging for millenia. In a brawl that spreads across 1970's London and modern day Mexico, strange new allies and horrifying new enemies join the fray.
Speaking of heroes, all the (surviving) favourites from the first instalment are here, with stalwart stunt woman Kaitlyn and ballistic punk Carey leading a cast of likeable and memorable protagonists. United by their disdain for thinking things through, and possessing a laissez faire attitude to getting the shit kicked out of them, Carey and company consistently place us at the heart of the action. Despite their cartoonish bravado, though, the characters are well-drawn and relatable, with an essential humanity that is so vital when pitting them against the essentially inhuman.
Heroes are all well and good, but in horror it’s the antagonists that steal the show. While the familiar tar men and empty ones still take centre stage, a new type of Remainder is introduced, and with it a barrage of body horror that would make David Cronenberg blush. You may have thought the soulless, unstoppable killing machines posing as Hollywood elite of the first instalment were scary, but that’s because you haven’t yet been introduced to a giant, spiked penis monster.
The focus on action and comedy puts The Empty Ones on a rather different playing field from typical horror. The story doesn’t sit comfortably in a single genre, to the point where those looking for a straight horror are best off looking elsewhere. This ain’t your grandma’s ultra-violent punksploitation adventure story. The Empty Ones is a wall to wall mosh pit of hilarious one liners, insane action and bone crunching violence-- but when the serious horror hits it hits suddenly, sharp and terrifying, like standing on a lego made of spiders.
Anybody who enjoyed the Unnoticeables won’t be disappointed by The Empty Ones, it builds on everything that made the first book so appealing, and throws in some fresh surprises. And if you'r new to the series,now's a great time to get on board before it all gets out of hand. Here’s looking forward to the next instalment.