Review: Jimbo Yojimbo by David W. Barbee

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Jimbo Yojimbo
By David W Barbee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine Fallout as written by Anthony Bourdain drunk off his ass on Saki while communing with the ghost of Kurosawa and you'll have a pretty good idea of the vibe and flavor David W. Barbee is aiming for with Jimbo Yojimbo.

A thousand years ago, the world was decimated by a plague of frogs. Bushido Budnick, an immortal master chef and insane scientist, saved the human race and rules the planet through his famous fast-food Buddha Gump Shrimp Company. Five years ago, Jimbo Yojimbo and his father waged war against Budnick and his army of mutant crawdad warriors. They failed, and Jimbo lost his freedom while his father lost his head. Rotting in Budnick's prison, Jimbo is spurred on by the ghost of his father to escape and declare revenge. Oh, and Jimbo has also been surgically altered by Budnick and has had his face replaced with a cephalopod.

Jimbo Yojimbo is a surprisingly straight-forward post-apocalyptic, hillbilly samurai actioneer. Once free of Budnick's prison, Jimbo goes on a sword-swinging killing spree to take down the man who took everything from him. Barbee delivers plenty of mayhem and bloodshed against a number of varied mutant creations, all set against a weird world overpopulated with frog and frog-like creatures. There's plenty of inanities and strangeness in Barbee's violent, southern-fried story, but to his credit he plays it all straight, which works well and helps keep the more whackadoo stuff grounded.

While the samurai elements were certainly engaging, one of my favorite parts of the book was Barbee's creativity in crafting a number of Southern-Asian fusion dishes, like egg-drop gumbo, jambalaya rolls, and various unnatural sushi concoctions washed down by Buddhaweiser beer. They're fun, if minor, elements to the story, but they help illustrate Budnick's constant tinkering. When he's not rejiggering a little girl's skull with cybernetics, he's scouring his pantry and cobbling together fresh, innovative recipes to keep his fast food chain hopping.

Budnick has created an entire world around his peculiarities and strangeness, and Barbee does a great job populating the landscape with various factions of redneck pirates, sell-swords, and bookish cultists, giving us a rich, diverse region that's both odd and insanely dangerous and as familiar and comforting as country gravy. It's a weird, heady, highly unique combination. It's also entertaining as all get-out. Jimbo Yojimbo was my first experience with David Barbee's work, and with Bizarro fiction in general, and I can tell you right now I'll be searching out more of what he has to offer.

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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