Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2021
The Roach is the story of a Vigilante of the same name, that operates in a fictional city called ‘Iron City’, part of the Rust Belt that is in the United States and runs from New York through multiple states and ends in Wisconsin. It gained notoriety in the 1980s, which is when this story is set.
Iron City is like a lot of places, which its rich parts, that are always taken care of by the Local Governments, and then, the poorer, run down parts, where the lower socio-economic population live, as well as the Crime Gangs, the Druggies, and in this case, The Roach.
This is a really fascinating story, and whilst it is in the genre of Sci-Fi as it kind of fits into the ‘Superhero’ story genre, the story itself actually is actually more of a Psychological Thriller, with elements of Mystery, Crime, and a little bit of Horror.
Bruno has written a gritty, and powerful story, of what happens to a ‘Superhero’, when they lose their superpowers.
Without giving too much away, this is what has happened to The Roach – for even though he was just a ‘Man’, he was shot in the spine one night, rescuing a young woman who was being viciously raped, and this has left him totally paralysed from the waist down, unable to use his legs or anything else. As such, The Roach is unable to be the Vigilante he used to be.
Now, he is just Reese Roberts, an irritable, foul mouthed, alcoholic, trapped in his wheel chair, and unable to act upon those that he sees tearing his city apart.
The story moves back and forth, telling parts of The Roach’s history, various things that have happened in his past, as well as aspects of Reese Robert’s past, and of course, there is the current story now, set about 5yrs after the incident that fateful night.
There was an interesting chain of events that occurred that fateful night, for the girl that was raped, not only fell pregnant, but she was also the daughter of Iron City’s Mayor.
As a result, 5yrs later, she has a little girl whom she loves dearly, and, for saving her life, and coming to her aid, Laura, the woman, tries to look after Reese, even though he would rather just drink himself to death. The Mayor would certainly rather he did. The only person who came out of it happy, was the young Police Officer, who, for bringing down the man who raped the Mayor’s daughter, and saving her, quickly rose through the ranks of the Police, under the eyes of the Mayor of course, Nepotism and Corruption are a wonderful thing.
So 5yrs later, when someone emerges pretending to be The Roach again, and taking credit for cleaning up a couple of crimes, which then leads to multiple gruesome murders, Reese has to put aside his misery, and become what he has not been able to for so long, Iron City’s Guardian, the real Roach.
And thus begins a rather frantic race against time to try and hunt down this killer, before he kills again, and again, or kills someone Reese knows and cares about.
It is a really interesting story in one way, in that being a huge fan of Batman, I found myself comparing the two stories, two ordinary men as such, putting on a costume, and becoming brutal, rather bloodthirsty vigilantes based on the tragedies that were their childhoods. I won’t go into too much detail or comparison, as it will give too much away, but it would make for a really fun book report (you know, apart from the fact that the parents or teachers might have an aneurism over the subject matter and the adult content of the story “Hey Mum, I got a book report on Comparing Vigilantes who beat up criminals who rob and rape people – awesome hey!!” Maybe I’ll do the book report?)
But the comparisons are really fascinating at a psychological level, and it would make for a very interesting discussion.
It again, just goes to show how intricate and complex Bruno’s story and Character is.
Bruno long ago established himself as a master in character driven story telling with his other series such as the Buried Goddess Saga, and the Children of Titan, but this takes him to a whole new level, and shows just how clever he really is, and how brilliant an Author he is. The Character of Roberts/The Roach, is such a stunning look into the mind of a man who is a damaged, psychopathic killer, but at the same time, he has such a strong sense of justice, and such a strong moralistic code, that he controls this psychopathic element, only unleashing it on those that he believes that are truly unworthy of living for their crimes against other people. The Character is so beautifully written, and I really don’t want to give too much away, but he is one of the most powerful characters I have read in a very long time, and the intricate detail that Bruno goes into with his thought processes are truly fascinating. It is so unusual to get to read about what runs through the mind of a character such as this, because mostly, we only get to read about their actions from the point of view of another party, not from the First Person point of view. It has made for an exceptionally thrilling story, and one that you just won’t be able to put down. I will give him one thing though, he does have a wicked sense of humour.
There are numerous other Characters in this story, Laura as I have mentioned, but there is are multiple others. I am not going to mention them individually, as I do not want to give away any spoilers, you will find out about all these characters as you read the story. I just wanted to say, that each of the Characters in this story, are extraordinary, it is not often that you come across a book that has a Main Character that is one of the best Characters you have ever read, but then you have this entire supporting cast that are just as sensational, and it is totally mind blowing.
It would be very difficult to make this into a movie, as the quality of actors they would need to play these parts would be spectacular.
The other thing that Bruno has down really well, is the handling of Bruno’s disability, and use of his wheelchair. Having a chronic back injury myself, and at times, having been restricted to a wheelchair due to nerve damage in my legs and being unable to walk, (although I must state, that I cannot fully empathise with what it must be like to be fully paralysed from the waste down, I have that to look forward to in the years to come – but I just wanted to point out my empathy to anyone in that situation), I can say that Bruno did a spectacular job of describing just how difficult it is to get around in a chair, and how sore your hands and arms feel. Even, after being so active (I was a Police Officer for 11yrs, who used to run every 2nd day), who utterly despondent it can make you feel. But again, Bruno’s writing is just masterful, he has obviously done a lot of research to make sure that he can make this as realistic as possible.
And that realism has also extended to all aspects of his world-building, there is so much incredible detail in every aspect of this book, from his descriptions of the city, to even just the streets, they are done so well, you feel like you are in one of the filthy back alleys, you can smell it, he describes it with so much depth, you can almost taste it. You can feel The Roaches pain, see his hideout, and smell the bleach in the stark white hospitals. This is a brutally in-depth story, and it is so well done.
I will give a warning for anyone that has a history of violence, there is a lot of very graphic violence in this book, including some rape scenes, and given who intense, just who real these are represented and portrayed by Bruno’s incredibly skilled writing, it may upset some readers.
For most though, you are in for a truly incredible experience that you will not forget, and one, that days later, weeks later, you are going to be thinking about just how thrilling, inspired and just how authentic this story was.
This will be one of those books that wins awards for2021, as it is easily going to be one of the best books written for 2021. If you love a good Psychological Thriller, Superhero Story, if you have ever loved Batman, or just like a good Vigilante story, or just like a really great story full stop – read this, you won’t be disappointed. (Or better yet, listen to it, R.C. Bray was incredible)