#SciFiMonth Audiobook Review: System Failure by Joe Zieja
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 3 of Epic Failure
Publisher: Tantor Audio (September 17, 2019)
Length: 11 hrs and 48 mins
Narrator: Joe Zieja
The Epic Failure series started off as a fun diversion for me, something to pick up between heavier reads as a light and fluffy palate cleanser, but somewhere along the way I grew to really love it! So when I found out that System Failure coming out, it looked to be the conclusion of this humorous series and I knew I had to check it out.
If you’ve read the previous installments, then chances are you’ll already know the kind of hijinks to expect from book three. Joe Zieja continues the running joke of having his protagonist Captain Rogers fall inadvertently into roles he is frightfully ill-suited and unqualified for, as the more he screws up or tries to slack off, the more he seems to get promoted. Everyone thinks he’s the genius he isn’t, and now he’s somehow found himself the head of the Joint Force tasked with fending off the latest threat to the galaxy. This time it’s the Snaggardirs, and no, they’re not some brutal new race of space alien looking to invade, they’re actually a chain of entertainment centers and party supply stores that has gone galactic, like Chuck E. Cheese in space on steroids. Of course, it doesn’t help that they also happen to be the manufacturers behind all the droids and much of the technology that runs the Free Systems military.
Meanwhile, tensions between the Thelicosan and Meridan fleets are still high, held in check by a delicate truce while details of a more permanent peace treaty can be ironed out. As usual, Rogers finds himself in the middle of the whole fiasco, and if things weren’t messy enough, sparks are also flying between him and the Viking, the Marine captain with whom he has been having a complicated love affair, but not necessarily the good kind.
What I love about these books are the common threads that run through them, tying the whole series together. Over time, Zieja has also perfected the tone of the humor, growing more confident with the style of comedy and the kind of jokes he wants to tell. While slapstick and snappy one-liners are still the order of the day, they seem to come easier and are delivered with more effectiveness in System Failure, but this might also be due to the familiarity with these characters and the outlandish situations they seem to constantly find themselves in.
Speaking of which, Captain Rogers is a riot as always. Even though it might seem farcical to talk about a character’s growth in a book like this, that is indeed what we’ve seen with our protagonist over the course of the series. There are important things to him now, like his friends and his ideals. Still, I was glad to see that through it all, Rogers has retained all the wackiness and important personality traits that make up his character. The series just wouldn’t be the same without his tendency to always try to find the path of least work possible, which just makes it funnier when his plans to slack off backfire on him spectacularly. Not to mention, he and the Viking are adorable, mainly due to the fact the two of them are so different, and also because Rogers so desperately wants to protect the woman he loves, who clearly need no protecting.
If you appreciate humor in your space opera, there’s no question you’ll need to at least give the Epic Failure series a chance. It’s a bit silly, sometimes a little too cheesy, but books two and three really stepped up the plot while keeping a good balance between the story and comedic elements. What people find funny being so subject, you have to be okay with a fair amount of absurdity given how wildly preposterous the scenarios can get. However, a fantastic cast of oddball characters keep the interest high, as does the energetic pace. There’s nothing too deep or complicated here, just plain old good pure fun.
Overall, I enjoyed System Failure and felt it was a good send-off for the trilogy and its characters. It gave me the rollicking, space-faring entertainment I wanted, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what’s most important? So if you’re looking for a fun science fiction adventure, make sure you remember the name Joe Zieja—with any luck, he’ll be writing more sci-fi humor real soon.
Audiobook Comments: For this third book I made the switch to audio, and at first I was wary because I’m always a bit skeptical of authors narrating their own books. But wow, Zieja knocked it out of the park! His reading was professional and pitch-perfect, and no wonder—after listening to his stellar performance, I got curious and looked up his bio and apparently, he’s quite the accomplished voice actor as well as an author. And of course, the benefit of having an author-narrated book is that he knows what all the characters are supposed to sound like and exactly what to emphasis in the story, which absolutely made the experience more personal and immersive.