Kill All Angels: Answers don’t always equal solutions, and vice-versa

Kill All Angels (The Vicious Circuit) Hardcover – December 26, 2017 by Robert Brockway (Author)Kill All Angels by Robert BrockwayKill All Angels by Robert Brockway

Space whales. Inter-dimensional parasites. A Hollywood stuntwoman who exploded an angel and now must do something even harder and greater. An aging punk who would rather die than stop fighting. All of this and much more await readers in Kill All Angels (2017), the final volume in Robert Brockway’s VICIOUS CIRCUIT trilogy. As is to be expected, the books need to be read in order, beginning with The Unnoticeables and continuing on to The Empty Ones before getting here. Spoilers for the previous books will be difficult to avoid, but will be kept light.

Right on the heels of her victory at the end of The Empty Ones, Kaitlyn sits in a Mexican desert, trying her best to empty her mind and meditate her way to figuring out what her next move will be. Unexpectedly, her consciousness is uplifted by a much larger entity — something she quickly dubs a “space whale” — which shows her the totality of the angels’ spread through various dimensions of time and space, and gives her a helpful push toward how she might be able to stop them once and for all. Carey and Jackie don’t really believe her, but Carey knows someone who might be able to help Kaitlyn: an Empty One named Zang, who gave Carey some much-needed guidance and assistance a few decades prior, when the two of them went to battle against Jie, another Empty One with a decidedly less-friendly attitude toward humanity. Jie’s still active in the present day, and if Kaitlyn is to put a stop to the angels “solving” humans like erroneous mathematical equations, she’ll have to deal with Jie, first.

The Vicious Circuit (3 Book Series) Kindle Edition by Robert BrockwayAs always, Carey is Kill All Angels’ shining star, and it’s obvious that this character was a labor of love for Brockway. Carey’s foul, lecherous, homeless alcoholic fifty-something punk veneer might be tough to crack, but there’s a surprising sweetness and kindness lurking within, and he’s far smarter than he’s willing to admit. The slow reveals of his battles against the angels and Empty Ones over the past few decades, and the tremendous cost asked of him time and time again, were both heartbreaking and illuminating. Backup-players Jackie and Zang were each given meaty pieces of plot and backstory, and ample opportunity to contribute to the overall novel, though I did wish that instead of Zang’s “my girlfriend got sold into sex slavery and then an angel ‘solved’ both of us and she went nuts but I’m mostly awesome” story, we got to see Jie’s side of things.

Kaitlyn, well … she’s certainly been through some changes since the ending of The Empty Ones, and her “kill all angels” mission from the space whale seems impossible from the start. Zang’s disconnection from reality reflects what lies in store for Kaitlyn should she allow herself to completely let go of her humanity, but that only carries emotional heft if the reader has been invested in her character to this point. Personality-wise, she’s been a blank slate from The Unnoticeables onward, and perhaps that means she’s somehow more capable of following the space whale’s directive, but if so, it’s deep subtext that gets lost among the thrift-store mugs and California King-sized bed that she seems to care about more than her best friend. One of the complaints I had about The Empty Ones still rings true for Kill All Angels: I never knew if Jackie or any other supporting character was safe, but at no point did I feel that Kaitlyn was in any true danger. Everyone else, including Carey (in a change from the previous books), felt dynamic and unpredictable.

In most arenas, Brockway’s writing has gotten stronger with each successive book, and Kill All Angels’ fight scenes were particularly well-written. Without divulging any details, there’s a fight on a roller coaster while it’s in operation, and it’s both spectacular and stomach-churning. The development of what the angels are and why they “solve” the problems in humanity’s code is fascinating, especially in terms of the conflict with the outside presence Kaitlyn calls a space whale, and the different ways Kaitlyn and Carey view humanity, angels, and God reflect their individual experiences. Brockway’s writing retains the punk-rock flavor he started the trilogy with, and though pop culture doesn’t always take the heavy skewering here that it did in the previous books, it’s clear that he doesn’t have overall-positive opinions regarding either Los Angeles’ ultra-urbanity or modern American suburbia.

Ultimately, Kill All Angels is 2/3 of a great novel. THE VICIOUS CIRCUIT is a mostly-compelling trilogy, and the last few chapters of Kill All Angels bring the series to a bittersweet close. This isn’t the best “young woman transcends her own humanity to defeat metaphysical monsters” novel I’ve read — The Amber Spyglass and The Library at Mount Char are two better examples which immediately come to mind — and I can’t help but wish that Brockway had taken some different approaches with this novel and the series as a whole. But if you’ve got a bit of a punk-rock streak and are looking for a few hours of entertainment, Kill All Angels will fit the bill.

Published December 26, 2017 . The concluding volume in the humorous punk rock adventure that began with The Unnoticeables and The Empty Ones. After the events of the first two books of the Vicious Circuit series, Carey and Randall reached LA during the early ’80s punk scene, which was heavily mixed up with Chinatown. A young Chinese girl with silver hair is the Empty One that seems to run things there, and her ex-lover, an Empty One named Zang, has apparently turned against them and may or may not be on Carey’s side. In modern times, Kaitlyn and company have also returned to LA because her powers have been growing and she has been having visions that may be telling her how to kill all of the angels. The downside being that they have to find a new one, first–and LA is the only place they know where to do that. Steeped in the LA punk scene in the ’80s, Chinatown, sunken suburbs, the ocean and gargantuan things that swim in it, Kill All Angels is everything that fans of Robert Brockway’s irreverent humor have been looking for to end the series with a bang.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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