What happens when you take a hillbilly samurai on the path of revenge and put him against the ruler of the world, a nigh-immortal chef who runs the ultimate fast food franchise? Why you might just end up with David Barbee’s bizarre novel JIMBO YOJIMBO. The premise is that the world as it was ended a long time ago, thanks to s a plague of frogs covering everything with slime. Bushido Budnick helped bring the world back from the brink, mainly by finding a way to serve up delicious frog legs. Along the way he did experiment on himself and others, not because he was all that interested in bettering them, but because he could. Along the way he founded the Buddha Gump company, an unholy matrimony of fast food, transhumanism, and religion. As it happens, Jimbo Yojimbo was part of the last rebellion against Budnick, only it ended with most of the rebels dead, including his father… and all with the help of Jimbo’s wife.
With the help of the ghost of his father, Jimbo manages to escape the dungeons of Budnick (okay, so he has a cuttlefish grafted to where his face used to be, but that’s a minor concern when you are on the path of revenge. Along the way he’s going to have to face down his ex-wife, a band of gun fetishists, and an insane assassin created by Budnick ho gets high from licking frogs, plus the horde of genetically altered shrimp that makes up Budnick’s army. Oh, and Jimbo’s wife is still around and just happens to be Budnick’s fastest delivery driver.
There is more than enough action to sink your teeth into, though Barbee cleverly subverts several of the expectations along the way where characters you might expect to make it through to the end do not, and others who you might think are destined to fall… don’t. None of it is done cheaply, so that the narrative flows so that the ending is surprising even at the same time that it seems absolutely inevitable.
This is definitely a book that had me at turns cheering, cringing, yelling and hoping beyond hope that it would all turn out well… despite knowing the odds were long.
A special mention finally to the world building Barbee engaged in. The world, while it felt small, was dense with detail down to how the restaurants were designed, the food served, and how it was a master chef might come to be the most powerful figure in an end of the world scenario. If you enjoy samurai post-apocalyptic action served deep fried and with a side of mutant crawdads… this is the book for you.
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