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Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski
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Braineater Jones

by Stephen Kozeniewski

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I'm not sure if this completely qualifies as Bizarro but if not, it is very close. Part old school hard boiled crime noir. Part horror. Part Abbott and Costello. The story reminded me first of CLOWNFELLAS: TALES OF THE BOZO FAMILY by Carlton Mellick III and then of NECROPOLIS by Tim Waggoner. Just a lot more humor thrown into the book.

The story follows Braineater Jones who wakes up dead in a pool. The problem, other than him being dead, is that he doesn't remember much. He creates a list of questions to answer including who he was, who killed him and a numbered list of more. And since Private Investigators help find answers, that is what he becomes. Along the way he learns the rules of being a zombie (drink alcohol to stay fresh), makes friends with a talking head, runs into prostitutes that are made up of parts (mix and match to find the perfect one) and is double-crossed by an overdeveloped fetus in a jar.

The world is fun to experience. The characters are very obviously unique but they also have depth. I was saddened when people (bodies?) were further mutilated. And while the list above might make them sound like randomly gross characters, they weren't. The story was more fun and odd and creative than anything else. I did listen to it as an audio book instead of reading it. I was a little doubtful of doing so since I haven't done so in the past, however Steve Rimpici did an awesome job. The voices for the different characters were great and only added to the enjoyment. There were multiple times that I was laughing out loud at what was happening, something that probably would have just been big smiles if I was reading a book. Don't pass up this chance to enjoy some offbeat zombie detective adventures. ( )
  dagon12 | Mar 12, 2017 |
A man wakes up, face down in the pool with a bullet wound in his chest. He doesn’t remember his name, his life or how he got there – or how he died. Or how he’s still walking around.

He is a zombie and he has so much to learn about that – a full list of questions in fact. As he learns how to survive as an alcohol soaked member of the undead he finds his habit of asking questions sets him up to solve many other cases.

Braineater Jones, zombie PI, with many questions, few answers and a whole whacky noir world to navigate.

This book gets definite points for originality. Sentient zombies – but sentient rotting zombies, sentient rotting zombies with a shelf-life, memory issues and a society which semi-acknowledges them but only to put them on the very bottom of the social ladder. It’s definitely an interesting concept

That setting is the late 1920s/early 1930s and has a very film noir setting with shades of Prohibition (prohibition is over but the town is still dry) which is especially difficult for the zombies who need alcohol to keep their mental facilities. Without which they degrade quickly and become braineaters, marauding monsters of movie legend. Which is a fate that awaits them eventually anyway as their bodies and minds rot

This makes Braineater a slur among their community and more than one vampire is outraged by Jones, who doesn’t remember much or anything of his human life, chooses to use it as a name.

The story itself is very very twisty in classic Noir style. We have shocks and surprises. We have twists and turns. There’s lots of double crossing and lots of misdirection and lots of people being the complete opposite of what you expect them to be. The whole idea of what’s being explored and examined changes from chapter to chapter with Jones both desperately trying to drag up some memories of his past life, some indication of who he was and why he died – or who killed him since he has a big bullet hole. Throwing in just learning what it means to be a zombie on tip of that – there’s a lot to get through.

And that’s something of the problem. There’s a lot to get through and the book isn’t that long and we just sprint through it all. Along the way we kind of lose things like motivation, development or exploration. I don’t know why Jones has decided to become a detective. He doesn’t exactly do a lot of work to figure out who he was nor to really try and regain his memories. He becomes super suspicious about people and I’m not quite sure where the suspicion comes from. He develops friendships and positions where I’m not sure where they’ve come from and many of them apparently become passionate and deep very quickly.

It feels like we have an excellent book, or even an excellent series of books, with complete interesting world building and a really twisty complex storyline. But then it felt like an over-eager editor decided to cut huge chunks of development and exploration from the book leaving it all a bit too fast and just a bit hollow and unsupported in places.

Interestingly this book has a preamble from the author in which they are conscious that this story is written at a time where prejudices were overt and common and that the voices of the characters reflect that. Basically it has a foreward warning that recognises and cautions that overt sexism, homophobia and racism will be present in this book to reflect the time. It’s interesting and positive to have this kind of warning at the front of the book and an overt acknowledgement that this language is harmful to people.

At the same time it’s almost surprising because I have read waaay worse without the “excuse” of a historical context – it’s almost like the warning should be in another book. Sure the language is far from appropriate but largely not gratuitous in its references. I appreciate the warning but have to say the book itself, which contains POC and bisexual people and women, doesn’t apply anachronistic acceptance but nor does it really revel in the bigotry it could. There are Black characters, a fairly major Latino character, a bisexual protagonist and some powerful women.

Read More ( )
  FangsfortheFantasy | Oct 30, 2016 |
I enjoyed the story of Brain eater Jones trying to figure out his past and his present. Interesting characters with their own unique problems and situations. I enjoyed the setting in post prohibition era with the common slang words of that time in the dialog. ( )
  caanderson | Oct 23, 2016 |
Waking up in a swimming pool tainted with blood, a hole shot through his chest, he should be dead, and he is. Deemed himself Braineater Jones, he tries to navigate his new undead life. With no memory and few clues, Jones finds himself in a bar with others of his kind. Needing alcohol to keep himself from caving to his cravings, Jones also needs money. Braineater Jones becomes an undead Private Investigator for his own kind. Along with his sidekick, who happens to be a severed head, Jones solves the strange problems of his undead counterparts. However, the one mystery Jones forgets to solve is his own.
Funny and unexpected, Braineater Jones was a wonderful compilation of genres. Set in the 1930’s near prohibition and written in the pulp fiction style, there is a good mix of historical fiction, mystery, zombies and plenty of humor. Through the eyes of Jones, the reader only knows what he does, which isn’t much. This made for a very fast-paced read and kept me wondering what could possibly happen next along with Jones. I loved the incorporation of history at the time and the incorporation of history at the time and the Nazi/zombie connection. There was a great sense of place and time period, even with the inclusion of zombies, the language, atmosphere and people all fit perfectly into this world. The mysteries that Jones solves brought me deeper into his world and contained just the right amount of humor. Braineater Jones is a great pick for anyone looking for a different kind of zombie read.

This book was provided for free in return for an honest review. ( )
  Mishker | Feb 24, 2016 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Writing a genre thriller is already a risky thing to get right, but doubly so when one attempts to write it in a winking, jokey style; take Steve Kozeniewski's Braineater Jones, for example, which is essentially a zombie story told in the style of a pulpy detective noir, with our Sam Spade stand-in being a freshly reanimated corpse and the book consisting of his hardboiled, wisecracking attempts to figure out what happened to him, which certainly gets a thumbs-up just for ambition. But like I've said here before, hardboiled detective tales are one of the most overused, tired genres for a person to even write in anymore in the 2010s, with zombie stories getting dangerously close to being this way as well; and instead of being a delightful new hybrid of the two like Kozeniewski clearly intended, Braineater Jones is unfortunately a stale hash of the worst of both these genres, with such easily recognizable beats that I could literally guess the next developments in the story in real time as I was reading each chapter. While Kozeniewski should certainly be applauded for putting in the effort, the lackluster results sadly leave a lot to be desired.

Out of 10: 7.0 ( )
  jasonpettus | Nov 24, 2015 |
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