Verdict: Author Dean Ammerman’s strength is describing large-scale action scenes with a range of oddball characters, punchy dialog, perfect timing, and lighthearted satire in ROADKILL ON THE FLIPSIDE, the 4th book in the Warrensberg Trilogy.
A nervous, persistent 16-year-old, Wilkin Delgado, and a 17-year-old fiery warrior/business mogul, Alice Jane Zelinski, embark on a whirlwind adventure, trying to solve the puzzle of how to prevent the entire universe from being sucked into a giant black hole.
With the exception of some character history and world building in the first few chapters, the story has vivid, nonstop action right down to the final page. It features a wealth of zany characters: a 10-year-old war veteran, an alien who drives a flying dumpster and loves Fanta, literary tunnel rats who quote famous philosophers and writers, members of a Holy Order who provide mystery with their inscrutable large “Book,” and a pompous military man who adores his enormous collection of wool suits. Soldiers, aliens, creatures, places, and machines are painted larger than life. It is a well balanced mix of entertaining adventure and satirical, infectious humor—especially towards war, consumerism, and government bureaucracy—with some poignant moments, too.
The character Alice Jane Zelinski is superbly done. Her personality pops off the page in every scene. She is a fashion dynamo, a kung fu artist extraordinaire, and is hugely wealthy and successful at age seventeen. Nothing stops her from pushing through to get what she needs. The part that makes her likeable—and believable—is her sarcastic humor and a warm heart underneath her short temper, evident when she describes her devotion to Jasper, her boyfriend who sacrificed his life to save hers.
Wilkin Delgado’s character could be stronger. The chapters are written in the first person, alternating between Alice Jane’s story and Wilkin’s which works well for the most part in propelling the story. Sometimes it is confusing who the narrator is because Wilkin’s character is not as compelling—and occasionally not as recognizable—as Alice Jane’s. Wilkin’s character would be stronger if he had more unique traits, perhaps an experience from his childhood that motivates him. He is a bit too generic as a hesitant, teenage everyman.
The story has a well crafted arc from Wilkin’s recruitment to fight in a bizarre war to a race against time to solve the mystery of the black hole and save the universe. The buildup to the story’s climax is exciting, including an epic battle of Alice Jane and Dimple Man (a powerful soldier and her nemesis) on a teetering tower, and keeps the reader guessing how these characters will ever figure out how to stop the black hole from destroying everything. The author’s style is witty and sharp (Alice Jane learns clues from a wise woman in “The Place that Isn’t”), with colorful, humorous descriptions of clothes, habits, and machines.
~Matthew Wiencke for IndieReader