Book Review: Communication Failure
Humor is a hard thing to write and write well, in part because you lose tone of voice and body language as means for conveying hilarity. Despite those limitations, Joe Zieja will make you laugh time and again in Communication Failure.
At the end of last year's Mechanical Failure, the Meridan fleet received a disturbing message from its rival Thelicosan fleet: "we're invading." Turns out, it was a mistake - but Rogers and his fleet don't know that. The two fleets enter a tense stand-off, complete with hilarious hijinks, as Rogers tries to keep his people from dying and the Thelicosan leader tries to convince Rogers to marry her (yes, you read that correctly).
Communication Failure is aptly named - one of the book's central obstacles is the Thelicosans jamming communications throughout to prevent the Meridan fleet from reporting their mistaken invasion, resulting in some rather inventive means of communication. I'll say no more, but it's definitely one of the book's funnier moments.
Speaking of which, the humor is very on point yet again. I laughed a little less than I did at Mechanical Failure, but many of the jokes, like the introduction of a cartoonish hotshot pilot character to harangue Rogers or anything around Deet's philosophical musings, still had me snorting out loud in entirely inappropriate places.
Like its predecessor, Communication Failure isn't very long, and the plot zips along quickly. It never has time to drag as it bounces between the two sides of the "conflict," and you'll burn through it quickly to find out what happens.
Rogers is as endearingly inept as ever, but Zieja manages to foist some actual character growth on him by the novel's end. He spends the book caught between a progressing romance he doesn't want (with the Thelicosan Grand Marshal) and a not-progressing romance he does want (with the Viking), and the pull between the two makes for plenty of situational comedy while also forcing Rogers to evaluate what he actually desires from life.
Tunger gets to be in the thick of things, saving Rogers' bacon many times and finally fulfilling his dream of being a spy. The Viking has an appropriate number of badass moments. Deet continues to put forth my favorite joke, his inability to swear, now coupled with his struggle to determine if he, too, will turn murderous.
This book also provides our first proper glimpse of the Thelicosans. Zieja has done some wonderful worldbuilding for them, constructing a math-obsessed society that takes itself just seriously enough to be funny. (The marriage proposal scene had me snickering throughout). Our new POVs from this side, particularly Grand Marshal Alandra Keffoule and the Thelicosan government liaison Vilia Quinn, are wonderful additions to the cast. Vilia's stress-fueled rampage was the highlight of the book's climax for me.
And here, for the first time, we get a real inkling of who's behind this whole giant kerfuffle. The clues are seeded throughout the novel, and come together at the end. The Thelicosans and Meridans will have to unite against their common enemy in the next book, and I'm sure there will be many bumbling screw-ups and plenty of snappy dialogue along the way. Can't wait.