Jailbait Zombie: An undead and unclever version of Get Shorty

urban fantasy book reviews Mario Acevedo Felix Gomez 1. The Nymphos of Rocky Flats (2006) 2. X-Rated Bloodsuckers (2007) 3. The Undead Kama Sutra (2008) 4. Jailbait Zombie (2009) urban fantasy book review Mario Acevedo Felix Gomez 4: Jailbait ZombieJailbait Zombie by Mario Acevedo

I confess I sometimes wonder about writing bad reviews (not reviews that are bad, but reviews of bad books). With so much out there, is it better to point people to the good stuff or warn them of the not-so-good? The feeling is exacerbated when the book is one by a popular author, let alone, as in this case, part of a popular series. Obviously somebody (a lot of somebodies) likes these books, so who am I to say they’re wrong? Or to warn people off who may have, like those other somebodies, enjoyed the book.

On the other hand, the publisher sent me the book to review it, so I’ve got to balance that responsibility as well. So here’s my compromise: I’ll give an explanation of why I found Jailbait Zombie to be not so good, but I won’t hammer away at all the flaws I felt it had. And, as I’ve already done, I’ll preface my bad review with the acknowledgement that lots of people do seem to like the Felix Gomez books. I’m just not one of them.

Jailbait Zombie is the fourth book in Mario Acevedo’s series starring Felix Gomez, a private investigator who also happens to be a vampire. I haven’t read the others, but while there were a few references to past events, my lack of knowledge did not hinder my reading of Jailbait Zombie. It’s a self-contained story in which Felix has to explore two strange events: one is the sudden appearance of lots of smarter-than-usual zombies and the other is the source of strange psychic energy that seems to be causing him nightmares. As one might expect, the two eventually dovetail.

Jailbait Zombie has the feel of an undead version of Get Shorty — lots of gangsters, lots of humor, some beatings and killings, several chase scenes, lots of guns. I don’t think it has Get Shorty’s cleverness or characterization, but it certainly has that feel to it.

The plot is pretty straightforward. There aren’t any real twists or turns; it just sort of moves along straightly and steadily toward its conclusion. There is little sense of tension or emotion. The fight and chase scenes get a bit repetitive as he uses his superior vampire powers (speed, agility, senses, levitation, hypnosis, etc) to always (except once) come out on top. The hypnosis scenes I found particularly repetitive and annoying because he simply puts people into a trance and gets information from them — sort of defeats the joys of a mystery to me. And it certainly is an easy out. Plus, from a writing standpoint, I lost track of how many times he used the phrase “I massaged the webbing between their fingers to deepen the trance.” That spoke of just lazy writing to me. The humor has its moments, but all in all it felt only moderately funny to me, and forced at times.

The characters don’t have much depth to them, though it’s possible Felix gains this depth over the course of reading all four books. Phaedra, a young girl dying of Huntington’s, it seems, could have been explored much more richly (though it’s clear she’ll be back, so maybe that will happen). I have to say I was a bit uncomfortable at the seeming nonchalance of her revelations that she was giving oral sex at 11 and sex at 13 to older men; using those acts as props for a character seemed a bit trivializing to me.

As mentioned, there’s obviously an audience for these books; it just isn’t me. Jailbait Zombie is a fast read, and some might find the humor more consistently funny, so it has that going for it.
But I honestly would be hard-pressed to name any strengths. Not recommended.


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BILL CAPOSSERE lives in Rochester NY, where he is lately spending much of his time trying to finish a book-length collection of essays and a full-length play. His prior work has appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other journals and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of several Best American Essay anthologies. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, co-writing the Malazan Empire re-read at Tor.com, or working as an English adjunct, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course, the ultimate frisbee field, or trying to keep up with his wife's flute and his son's trumpet on the clarinet he just picked up this month.

View all posts by Bill Capossere

One comment

  1. Hey Bill – I read a couple of these. I’m with you on the negative reviews. These struck me as being targeted to a specific demographic that is just not me.

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