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.
As 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.