Robert Brockway’s The Empty Ones has character, at least. It hits you over the head with character, pokes it in your eyes, drags it through your brain, and pulls it out your ears, hoping that you’ll wipe away the blood and come back for more.
The plot is interesting enough – there are several kinds of dark, part-human (or ex-human) creatures, and they cause havoc – though apparently only selectively. The book shifts among several viewpoints and timeframes of characters trying to fight the creatures.
The book is a sequel, and Brockway does a fair job of setting out the backstory without getting in the way. The concept unfolds gradually as well, with some tantalizing hints left toward the end, just begging you to be interested in the sequel. In terms of plot, I might well have been.
Unfortunately, character is where the book begins to come apart. One of the lead characters is a lowlife punk who likes to drink and fight and fuck. There’s not really much more to him than that, with the result that he comes across not as a character, but as a parody. It’s deliberately over the top, but Brockway misjudged the balance, and simply took it too far to be interesting. Rather than invest in real character building, he put his effort into shock value – lots of violence and shit and blood. That might have worked in a shorter piece, but in a novel, it lost its flavor quickly. Overall, the book is intriguing, but too affected to take seriously.