BOOKS… Old School Evil The Rejects by Brian Cave (Fiction, 2022)

#2020s

 

Children of villains find they are not alone as a shady department is on a quest to hunt down some old school evil too…

 

A group of several supervillains’ grown-up children aim to track down a group of evil escapees from their father’s retirement home for villains. Meanwhile, their joint nemesis plots to destroy them all.

 

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Anyone who has watched a film or TV show pilot knows it’s hit or miss for the follow-up in the series. Either you are captivated once again after rejoining that once-visited world with familiar names and places (such as in The Americans (2013-18)). Or you wish you had stopped watching a lot earlier with that perfect ending.

Admittedly, I’ve given up on a few TV shows after a well-written end to series 1. A recent example was The Rain (2018-20) which I “ended” after being satisfied by the first series climax. Later if the reviews I read are to be believed, this series became less credible and led to a torrent of bad press after its third and final season.

But then, I’ve been captivated and continued a series and then wished I’d given up after Season 1, see Outlander (2014-). With Outlander, I found Season 2 really bo-ring and after sitting through this second season, I learnt the main villain was to be killed in battle – in research after reviewing the Season 3, trailer – much to my exasperation… (hence no more Outlander reviews).

There are times that I’ve got well and truly hooked and then joined a series more regularly after a later season, see Season 3 of Dallas (1978-91). I joined the Dallas series just before JR was shot, and was and still am a fan of this series. I ended up buying the Season 1 and Season 2 boxset, I was obsessed with finding out what I’d missed.

It’s the same dilemma with books. Somehow, I couldn’t get into the six-part book series after the excellent The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – sorry Santa. Although I did like the adapted movie franchise from these books… So I’ll admit, as much as I was keen to rejoin Brian Cave’s Old School Evil book series, part of me was filled with dread… what if it wasn’t as good, it wasn’t as immersive or worst still I had to tell Brian I didn’t enjoy it at all and felt I couldn’t give a positive review.

Luckily, this second book in the franchise was an undeniable treat from start to finish. But first a wee recap for those who haven’t read the first book of this franchise. Old School Evil (2018 or as a reprint in 2022) is the book you are looking for and can be found HERE. This book has two first-person narratives, telling about the evil and good protagonists respectively, Max and Jayce in an imaginative and action-packed book. This book comes with surprises and thrills and has Cave’s always trademark 1980s cartoon and comic book references in all the right places, which his bloggers adore and you will too…

In this book, Max and Jayce’s stories are told in alternate narratives in each chapter, until their stories merge… Accompanied by a wolf head symbol, Max first tells his story in his distinctive voice… Max is an elderly supervillain – with werewolf tendencies – who is stuck to his dismay in the Hidden Brook retirement home for villains. Once known as Max the Menacing, with the help of his loyal accomplice, Fangrow, he tracks down his estranged son, Jayce.

In a separate narrative – indicated with a wolf-like symbol heading –  and told in this character’s own unique style, Jayce tells his story concurrently. Jayce is a homeless loner, after believing he killed his foster parents. After Fangrow reunites him with his biological father, Max, Jayce discovers that his werewolf tendencies were genetically passed down from his father. Max asks him to look for a fellow resident’s daughter, now a bank robber… and more of this review is HERE.

Author Brian Cave enrolled his first book’s cover illustrator, Wack! once again, to create both The Rejects book covers. It is clear that this illustrator with a flair for retro-style cartoons was wonderfully inspired by Cave’s vivid character descriptions. Wack! is described on their Twitter page HERE as

“I love drawing 80s toys, retro inspired art and golf.”

The first book of this book series has this same illustrator with a cartoon-styled Jayce aka Stormdog on the front cover, and a number of the characters and descriptions gained from this book on the back in a comic book style and font. The Rejects uses a consistent style as Wack! created both the front and back covers in a similar way. Both are complemented with an illustration of Terrorsaur (or Scale-Face) and with more characters and descriptions on the back cover.

Brian Cave’s second book in the franchise is intriguingly named Old School Evil: The Rejects (2022) and it has just been published HERE and is on Paperback and on Kindle. At the beginning of this book, Cave engaged my attention from the first chapter title, The Funhouse. Cave again has two stories running over the same time period, written in two unique styles by the two protagonists of this book, Miguel and Jayce.

Cave introduces the new character, Miguel, an elderly Spanish conquistador – with his part of the story indicated with a plumed helmet heading –  as he tells his story in the first person. Miguel appears to be running from something or someone with his then companions Pete, Javier and Scott as the book begins. Cave goes straight into the action as we discover those four elderly characters have escaped from Hidden Brook Retirement home. This place is now burning down and emergency services are attending the scene. Cave cryptically adds Miguel’s thoughts…

Max, you could not have picked a worse time to stage your revolt,

The mentions of the character, Max and the location of Hidden Brook on this page, immediately link these elderly men with the first book’s location and characters. When relating to this first book, we now believe these elderly men are villains, who once shared this retirement home and living space with Max the Menacing, but an explanation confirms this as fact. Miguel, like Max, dislikes his companions, as Cave adds;

“Did you forget we’re bad guys? We don’t care about anyone but ourselves. It’s in the job description!”

As these men run up a hill, Miguel notices there are cars at the scene, that belong to their adversary, The Department. Gunshots are heard from below, from the scene of this burning “carcass” of a building and then Pete is shot in the leg and injured…

In the second narrative, we return to meet Jayce and his companions. He is now known to both readers and his friends, as the son of Max the Menacing. In his story – also told in the first person – a wolf-shaped looking symbol indicates when he is telling his story.

His story immediately adds a shocking and surprising twist –  compelling you to read more – to the events that occurred in the gap between these two books. (I will let you discover the nature of this for yourself…) Jayce is concerned about the fate of the Hidden Brook residents, with a number of these residents assumed dead. He plans to investigate the scene of the fire with the help of his friends, who are known as the Legacies, and their name is defined as,

Children left behind by the villains that had packed Hidden Brook.

The Legacies “inherited their fathers’ weapons and pets”, and is illustrated with Jayce inheriting the ability to change into a werewolf from Max, his father. Jayce now finds that some of his inherited attributes are useful when hunting, such as when identifying familiar smells or when his wolf-like instincts are aroused. On the trail of both the Legacies and the escapees, is The Department, their joint long-time nemesis who hopes to destroy both groups.

I easily fell back into Brian Cave’s imaginative, compelling and immersive world of elderly villains, werewolves, dinosaurs, Legacies and zoobots (animals with robot appearances). Cave is an engaging writer and he gives nuance, humanity and understanding to his characters. He writes his characters as people first and has consistent credibility in their dialogue and stories in his book series. Cave shares his creative, vivid and visual descriptions of these characters in The Rejects’  24 chapters. These have enticing chapter titles such as Return of the Driller, The Immobiliser and Transfer Point. It is clear his warm imagination that fuels this universe was influenced by his unwavering love of those 1980s cartoons.

His strengths as a writer are also noted when reading natural conversations between his characters. I found Cave’s rapport – and animosity as appropriate – between his characters was more believable when compared to those in certain cartoon universes. I feel that the best example of a real-life conversation in those superhero movies was Captain America discussing his love dilemma on dating his old girlfriend’s niece with two of his peers and those Marvel Superheroes discussing their troubled love life in a bar.

Miguel and Jayce, as the narrators and protagonists have their own distinctive characteristics, attributes and flaws. Their stories as leaders are told in two different writing styles and narratives. These are enhanced in their two unique characterisations. Their personalities are amplified in their use of language in the first person and their personal way of interacting with others, and with their own interpretations of events and others.

Cave fills in with those all-important happenings when he refers to the gaps which happened in the time between the first book’s ending and this one beginning, only when necessary. He reminds you of those relevant backstories and past events from the first book and often leaves you dumbfounded with a few shocking new revelations and cliffhangers. The character’s backstories are added only when this is relevant and are given on a need-to-know basis, as you discover more about his created world. This world-building is added as part of the current and consistent storylines.

Jayce is developed further as a character. Cave expands on his much loved character by relating to his past and present. As Jayce learns more about his parents, his understanding of their lives adds more to your understanding of these three familial characters. However, littered throughout both narratives are mind-bending shocks and revelations within each chapter where things take surprising turns in a wonderfully unpredictable and always innovative manner. Cave creates imaginative and consistent descriptions for those new and familiar characters respectively.

These devices are combined with often eerie and surprising plot-driven locations for the action and plot. It was also of great interest to learn more about The Department and to learn more about this adversary, its doings and significant characters based there. This particular location was written about from the point of view of a character, and it added more to the story, its lore and the plot.

Throughout this book, I found myself visualising this book as a future – or current – comic-style TV series. I feel strongly that it’s ratings-winning content in a future animated cartoon franchise for a streaming channel or for a graphic novel series in the making. This aminated series or graphic novel, I believe must be created by the combined talents of Cave and Wack! steering its development.

This to create tan ongoing series where this super world and character builder Cave and the dedication from Wack! take on their alter egos once again taking on the role of writer and illustrator respectively. This double act could bring those characters and this shared universe to life with an origin story – and its follow-up – that came out of a Cave, that impresses as one of those books from a better world that you must pass on to your Legacies…

 

A disclaimer and personal thank you to Brian Cave for asking me to write this post. Financial compensation was not received for this post. However, I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own. If you are involved in the entertainment industry and would like to be featured or promoted here, please drop a line to me via my Contact Me Page.

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