Last Updated on January 2, 2023 by ThoughtsStained
ANGELIC FECAL MATTER*, this book was awesome.
I first discovered this book was a thing when I saw it being advertised on Twitter by a few agents and writers I follow. I checked out the blurb and knew it was a book that I wanted to read. So when I got the book in the mail from Sam, as part of a care package of books to review, I was absolutely and totally stoked.
Then, when I met the author Joe Zieja at WorldCon and he genuinely listened to me when I spoke with him for a few minutes about my own writing in-between panels. My respect went up even more. By the time I finally got around to picking up this and actually dived in, my expectations were higher than what I hold for most books. I knew I would be well impressed if it actually managed to match those expectations.
Spoiler: Mechanical Failure totally did.
I received a copy of Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja from Agent Sam Morgan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Publisher: Saga Press | Release Date: June 2016 | Pages: 352
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Science Fiction | Format: Paperback | Source: Agent
A smooth-talking ex-sergeant, accustomed to an easygoing peacetime military, unexpectedly rejoins the fleet and finds soldiers preparing for the strangest thing—war.
The two hundred years’ (and counting) peace is a time of tranquility that hasn’t been seen since…well, never. Mankind in the Galactic Age had finally conquered war, so what was left for the military to do but drink and barbecue? That’s the kind of military that Sergeant R. Wilson Rogers lived in before he left the fleet to become a smuggler.
But it turns out that smuggling is hard. Like getting-arrested-for-dealing-with-pirates-and-forced-back-into-service kind of hard. It doesn’t seem so bad—the military was a perpetual tiki party anyway—but when Rogers returns after only a year away, something has changed. These are soldiers—actual soldiers doing actual soldier things like preparing for a war that Rogers is sure doesn’t exist. Rogers vows to put a stop to all this nonsense—even if it means doing actual work.
With an experienced ear for military double-speak, Zieja has created a remarkable and sarcastic adventure.
On the Page
Content warnings are written up by me, unless specified. Subject to being an incomplete list, though guided by referencing this list and trying to highlight as many as I can identify.
- It’s a science fiction comedy of errors that was refreshing and absolutely mental at the same time. The level of competent incompetence–I know, sounds crazy, but it was totally a thing–was an element I’ve never experienced in a book before and I had no idea how to tackle. In the end, I mostly just shook my head as Roger missed something obvious and laughed aloud at what resulted from the error.
- Rogers just wants to be a con man. He did his stint in the military and he is perfectly content to live out the rest of his days cheating pirates and ruining his liver, one Jasker 120 at a time. Of course, he doesn’t get what he wants and ends up serving back with the military. Except the military appears to be organized and mobilizing for war; a war that doesn’t exist. The longer Rogers stays aboard and serves on the Flagship, the more he realizes that what appears to be a functional military regime isn’t the case in the slightest. And it’s up to him to fix it while trying to uncover the actual threat that no one is prepared to fight, because they are too busy inaptly preparing for a war that isn’t happening.
- Of course, like any fantastic novel, the true gems are the characters and this cast is something special. My particular favorites included Deet, my favorite droid in the galaxy, for his attempts at humor, his odd humanity and his inability to scream EXPLETIVE. Hart for his poor cooking and spunk. Freakin’ Tunger, for reasons I cannot say, lest they spoil the book for you. Mailn, for additional reasons that I cannot say, due to additional spoils. Admiral Klein; again, shrouded in secrecy as to why, as to discourage spoilers (but I will give you a hint: it involves toast). And, of course, the Viking. Holy Lord, did I freakin’ love the Viking.
I took my time reading Mechanical Failure because it was such a joy to read** and I often found myself reading it to escape from my current stresses in RL. Can’t afford paying my bills? Read about Rogers’ first meal back on the Flagship. Depression and anxiety taking some swings at me? Read about Rogers trying to function without gravity. Overwhelmed with stress and feeling like my life life is falling apart and I can’t keep up? Read about Rogers versus Barbor Bot.
This book is fantastic. It’s hilarious and the start of the Epic Failure trilogy, thankfully. I would not be content if this was a standalone. I couldn’t be more excited for when the next two books come out (hopefully sooner rather than later).
* If you have no idea what this is meant to mean, read Mechanical Failure and give Deet my fondest hello. You’ll understand. Or not, potentially. That’s the fun of it.