This year I am spending a little more time trying to read new and upcoming authors. As such, I have identified a few books that I am keeping an eye on as they come out. I like to think of them as ‘Dark Horses’, or books that I know little about, have fairly unknown authors, and I think are likely to be surprise hits. My first dark horse was a bit of a flop, but the second, today’s review, is showing a lot more potential. Please welcome Mechanical Failure, by Joe Zieja, a science fiction comedy about the difficulties of being a space marine. The book follows Wilson Rogers, a ex-military sergeant and complete degenerate, who left the military to pursue more lucrative, and less legal, avenues of income. The book begins with a series of unfortunate events that rapidly results in Rogers’ forced re-entry into the service upon the very ship he used to serve on. Excited to be back at his old stomping ground, Rogers begins to believe that this might not be the worst turn of events. However, things seem a little different from the last time Rogers was in the service and the space marine life seems to be a lot different that it used to be back in the day (a whole few years prior). There have been sweeping changes that make no sense, no one seems to have any idea what is going on, and the space navy has become a lot more difficult than he remembers.
The book’s plot revolves around both Rogers’ reintegration into the service, and his attempt to determine what is going on. The book reminded me strongly of a whole slew of post apocalypse/tragedy games where you try to figure out what happened to create the huge mess you are presented with; except instead of horror Mechanical Failure reaches for humor. The book is quite funny, with a great sense of humor along the lines of the classic Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Rogers is constantly being placed in humorous paradoxes with terrible outcomes. In addition, the book has no problem making fun of several Sci-Fi tropes and can be refreshingly original in many places. While the mystery of what is happening to the ship is fairly obvious, the real power of the book comes from Rogers’ hilarious detective work as he discovers it for himself. The characters are all original, relatable, and interesting, and the prose was simple and clean. The book is very easy to read and I found myself losing track of time as I flew through it.
While the book was consistently laugh-out-loud funny, it did very occasionally miss a beat with its humor causing me to cringe. In addition, this is the first book I have read in awhile that had a few noticeable typos; though they were almost completely contained to the first third of the book. Mechanical Failure definitely could have benefited by one more full pass from an editor, but I never found the errors egregious or that offputting. Finally, there were a few minor elements of the plot that were confusing or unexplained, but as this is only the first book in a series, and the focus was more on the laughs than the plot itself, I wasn’t really bothered.
Mechanical Failure is definitely worth picking up. It is a first entry Zieja can be proud of, and I will definitely be picking up the sequels. It is rare that I find a book that makes me laugh as much as this did, and while there are some problems, the humor makes them extremely easy to overlook or ignore. If you like science fiction or laughing (so everyone) then this is a book worth your time and Zieja is an author worth watching, as I expect him to continue making great things.
Rating: Mechanical Failure – 8.0/10