Monday, October 20, 2014

REVIEW: Braineater Jones / Stephen Kozeniewski

Halloween is just around the corner, and in anticipation, I'm dedicating this week to horror writer Stephen Kozeniewski, writer of creepy chills and gruesome thrills. The first part in the series is my review of Braineater Jones, Kozeniewski's debut novel, which is currently being adapted into a cartoon series.

TITLE: Braineater Jones
AUTHOR: Stephen Kozeniewski
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Amazon (Kindle), Amazon (paperback), Audible (audiobook), and other online retailers

Horror - Noir/Mystery


Full disclosure: Red Adept Publishing, which published Braineater Jones, is also my publisher for the Jane Colt series, and I know Steve personally. The below represent my honest opinions. Man, I hate writing disclosures.

Okay, now that I've gotten that over and done with, let's get on with this review, which I've been meaning to post since the book came out in October 2013 (sorry, Steve!).

Imagine waking up with amnesia – with no clue as to who you are, where you came from, or what the hell you're doing in some rich guy's pool. Now, imagine realizing you're actually dead… well, undead. A zombie. You'd have a hellova lot of questions.

This is what happens to the titular character in Stephen Kozeniewski's novel, Braineater Jones, which follows the investigations of a man – well, zombie man – trying to figure out what the devil happened to him. Who is he? Who killed him? And why? Not knowing even his own name, he adopts the moniker "Braineater Jones" even though in this world, "Braineater" is a derogatory term for zombies.

Let me elaborate on the world a bit, because it merits a bit of explaining. Kozeniewski's story takes place in a gritty 1930s American city, though which one is unspecified. The setting is a nod to film noir, inspired by old black-and-white Humphrey Bogart movies. Prohibition is in full effect, and fedoras are in fashion. In a paranormal twist, this city is also the home of zombies. No one knows exactly how these zombies come into being – dead people just kind of wake up and start wandering around. However, their sentience is dependent on alcohol. Without booze, the zombies become mindless monsters who attack living humans – hence "braineater." And so the zombie community congregates in an underground speakeasy, run by a mysterious master.

Braineater Jones is written in a cynical, tongue-in-cheek voice with ample use of exaggeration and sarcasm. The whole story is very pulpy, and the author himself has said that it's not meant to be taken too seriously. It's pure entertainment, full of humor, plot turns, and gory zombie horror. Because zombies are at the center of the story, the book falls into the "Horror" category. But it's not Stephen King-style suspense horror. The horror elements – bloody severed body parts and the like – are meant to shock and disgust rather than to scare.

All in all, Braineater Jones is a fun and well-crafted bit of pulp fiction. Its goal is to entertain, and in that, it certainly succeeds. The mystery of who Braineater Jones is and how he ended up dead keeps the story moving, and between that and its concise structure, it's a very quick read.

Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.

During his time as a Field Artillery officer he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow. 

He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s is in German.

Click here to watch the Zigzag Timeline video interview with Stephen Kozeniewski

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