The Unnoticeables, by Robert Brockway
Published: 7 July 2015
Humanity’s hunger for fame and fortune can, it has been argued, leave it lacking substance: wannabe celebrities shock rather than inspire, politicians pander rather than debate, and entertainers sell out rather than persevere. What’s left is a vacuum, a no-man’s land where nothing begets more of the same, and nothing original.
Robert Brockway’s The Unnoticeables pours scorn on this lack of substance, making horrible the vacuous masses who amass on Hollywood in search of the aforementioned fame and fortune. They are characterless people with forgettable faces who prey on the unsuspecting, sucking out their life forces before turning them into copies of themselves. The title Unnoticeables are joined by the Tar Men, heaving masses of flammable tar and clockwork parts, which burn to a crisp whoever crosses their path. Both ‘monsters’ are peas from the same pod, and say something about humanity’s all consuming need to succeed, to set alight or be burned, or get rich or die trying.
The Unnoticeables is told in two timelines, following Carey–a drunken punk rocker who prefers to punch his way out of a situation–in 1973 and Kaitlyn–a six-fingered stuntwoman who can’t get enough work–in 2011. Carey and his friends become more and more aware of the Unnoticeables and Tar Men as the story progresses, with Carey’s friend preyed upon early and then friend after friend later succumbing to the charming banalities of the Unnoticeables. He provides the comic wit in a 1970s Los Angeles dripping in rebellion and scum, while Kaitlyn is more rounded, with a down-to-Earth demeanor and real problems, that is until her childhood crush, a TV soap actor, tries to suck out her soul and her best friend goes missing.
The Unnoticeables paces along nicely and balances wit with horror in equal amounts, resulting in a story that scares and tickles consistently. A particular treat are the two Unnoticeables who Kaitlyn mistakes for real people at a Hollywood party. They trade insults and celebrity gossip, before raping and beating drugged women, as all around them partygoers fight, violate themselves, and tear each other limb from limb.
Where The Unnoticeables trips up is furthering the story’s mythology, which involves angels, the number six and a giant machine that must be greased with human blood. It’s all terribly gratuitous, but never fully realised. It’s no surprise that sequels are planned, because there is lot going on in The Unnoticeables that is ripe for expansion. At a slim 283 pages, Brockway could have given the reader more time to digest what is going on, without taking away from the wit, horror and body parts.
The Unnoticeables is a solid, punk rock novel that says much about the filth pervading society and California. Its two leads are ripe for expansion in the sequels, and the monster that lurks behind every face is scary enough to pursue, at least so the reader can be given some rhyme and reason for all the riotous fun.