In the distant future, society collapsed due to a rain of frogs all over the world. In the rubble, a restaurant company known as the Buddha Gump Shrimp Company and its evil leader Bushido Budnick took over the world with its chain of American South-Asian fusion foods and Budnick’s genetically engineering. Jimbo Yojimbo, a redneck swordsman who had once lead a rebellion against the Company, has been held prisoner in Budnick’s dungeon after the rebellion failed, his face replaced with a cuttlefish. One day, his father’s ghost visits him and shows him how to escape. Finally out of the clutches of Bushido Budnick, he begins his mission of revenge.
“Gigantic robot ninjas stood along the main roads, deactivated and striking dynamic poses. Budnick had built them for a war no one remembered, and centuries of slime and rust had frozen them forever. Surgical salons advertised liposuction and a variety of cosmetic and genetic upgrades performed by graduates of the Bushido Budnick Medical Dojo. Fountains splashed slimy water and spherical frog-skin lanterns hung from eaves. Shrines full of candles and statues sat on every corner, along with dining halls, saloons, and boutiques selling designer kimonos, all of it owned by the Company.”
Jimbo Yojimbo shows influences from a variety of sources, though the most obvious is from samurai films. One of its biggest strengths is that while it has many humorous ideas, such as a character who licks toads’ asses to get high, it keeps itself a mostly serious and straightforward drama. The plot could have easily come from any number of samurai movies, though it never feels derivative. The basic structure of the plot is a well-executed war and revenge tale.
This is not to say that the story is without humor or that its fantastic elements are just window-dressing. There are plenty of humorous moments in the story. One of the funnier parts isthe introduction of a group called the Quackers, who are fanatically religious human-duck hybrids. They spout slogans that sound vaguely similar to contemporary American conservative slogans, but (intentionally) make little sense in the setting of the book. They’re an obvious, if strange, stand-in for the cast of Duck Dynasty. There’s no question of the contempt Barbee feels for them, continuing his theme of his love-hate relationship with redneck culture.
The world that Barbee builds in this novel is an interesting and entertaining post-apocalypse. The bizarro element of a plague of frogs being what destroys civilization would seem like a Biblical reference, but if it is, it’s not hammered in. Frogs still play a large role in the story, the slime on their bodies being the drug of choice for many, such as with a warrior that works for the Buddha Gump Shrimp Company named Toadlicker, who uses them in a religious manner. We also see the various factions that cropped up in the many rebellions against the Company throughout the years.
While this book could have easily gotten lost in its world-building, it manages to keep its story tight and fast-paced. At times, though, it feels it has the opposite problem. There is a lot of backstory to Jimbo Yojimbo’s tale of revenge, and much of it is told in exposition. The novel is short at only around 150 pages. It could have told more of its backstory through things like flashbacks without losing any tension.
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Jimbo Yojimbo is an entertaining, action-packed story with elements of samurai dramas, cyberpunk, and satire of redneck culture. While it doesn't use the interesting world it creates to its full potential, it still shows David W. Barbee to be an excellent bizarro writer. This is a book that will likely be enjoyed by fans of genre fiction in general and not just fans of bizarro.
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