Book Review: Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies: Literary Dada (NSFW)

Before I can begin this review, I would like to thank Mrs. Sloane Howell for her calm response to my review of one of her novellas. In the previous review, I said a few things that are considered harsh, but she took it with a grain of salt which is more than I can say for some authors. She is actually a nice person if you talk to her.

Now, a little insight on the company that published this book. The publication company that has published the book Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies is known as ChiZine Publications. ChiZine is a Canadian publication company that was started in 1997 and has become known for publishing the dark and surreal novels that other publishers would traditionally reject. They would host to authors such as Tony Burgess (The n-Body Problem) and Simon Logan (Katja From the Punk Band).

I had found this book originally a few years back when I went to the Baltimore Comicon and ChiZine had a stand along the many aisles. The saleswoman assured me that the content in ChiZine’s books were dark and I ended up purchasing one of the books entitled Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies which is a part of James Marshall‘s How to End Human Suffering Series. I was curious to see how the author would combine three of the popular media tropes into a cohesive whole as well as how controversial it could be.

Let’s take a look at the author of this book, James Marshall.

About the Author

James Marshall

Is he using a Selfie-Stick?

James Marshall is an award winning author from our neighbors from the north (Canada) who has had several of his short fiction pieces featured in several magazines such as PRISM International, the Malahat Review, Exile and Prairie Fire. He has also received several awards for his short stories which would garner him some fame. In 2012, he would sign with ChiZine Publications to release his first novel Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies and would later release the next book of the series Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos (2013).

Now, shall we delve into the writing of James Marshall?

As with other reviews, I will be talking about the author’s writing style, the characters, the story line and for this book, the Insanity/Controversy found inside of it.

The Writing Style

There is no easy way to describe James Marshall’s writing style for this book. Written in the first person narrative, the writing can be in-cohesive and literally all over the place. There are sections of the book which can range from one or two sentences to an entire paragraph where the protagonist is rambling on about either one topic or another without progressing the story. While this does create character development and insight into the character’s mind, it puts the story to a screeching halt.

Another thing that I notice with the writing style in this book can be seen with the introduction of the some of the chapters. You know how in a majority of novels, the chapter title will be text that is either the same font-size to slightly larger than the rest of the text in the book, stay at the top of the page and will only occupy at most a fifth of the page. Right out of the door with the first chapter, the title occupies HALF OF THE PAGE. They are more akin to run on sentences that chapter headings. Don’t believe me, look at this.

Luckily it's not all like this. You think he is overcompensating for something?

Luckily it’s not all like this. You think he is overcompensating for something?

It seems like a little much when you are introducing the first chapter of your book.

Characters

The main protagonist of this story is known as Guy Boy Man, who explains his name as thus:

Allow me to introduce myself: I’m Guy Boy Man, which I admit, is pretty weird, because I’m not Asian, or a series of keywords to search for gay porn, or heterosexual porn, I guess, if you are a chick and you’re into porn and if you are, let me just say that’s awesome.

Guy Boy Man’s character is honestly difficult to describe. At one moment, he wants what is best for his human classmates while at another moment, he is using the fat, special education and disabled students as human shields. He is bold in his approach, nonsensical in his thinking, and direct in his speech. At one point he even asks the lone black character of the book if it the stereotype about penis endowment is true. He is often portrayed as egotistical and trigger happy, but sympathetic and caring towards his friends. At times, the reader can’t tell if he is secretly brilliant or if he is completely insane. It can be difficult for the reader to relate to the character especially when he goes on inner monologue rants such as the following below.

The (well-known) rivalry between ninjas and pirates is (mostly) friendly. Normally I’m not really an exclamation point kind of guy, but I’m pretty enthusiastic about being a pirate! I get all my music, movies, and software for free! (No, not like a communist. Well, okay, kind of like a communist, but in an awesome way.) Without a doubt, we pirates are the coolest! We fly the skull and crossbones! It’s unquestionably the wickedest flag of all time! (Did you know “ninja’ is the plural of “ninja”?)[That’s scary. I’ve got to admit it. (They don’t use the “s” because it’d slow them down and make it harder for them to hide when guards are nearby.)] But I don’t abide by the no “s” rule. I think it discriminates against blind people. It’s like with deer. If your’e with a blind person and you say, “Hey, look at the deer!” the blind person doesn’t know how many deer you’re talking about. There could be one deer, or there could be a lot of deer. There might not be any deer at all and you could be messing with the blind person. I’m just saying. When I’m talking about more than one ninja, I say “ninjas” because of blind people.)

This actually goes onto the next page, so I have to cut the monologue short, but you get the idea. Though in the story, you do see some change with Guy Boy Man’s mentality as he becomes less focused on hedonistic sex with his young followers and tries to be loyal to his love interest. So you actually see character development


Baby Doll15, the love interest of Guy Boy Man is easier to describe as a character than the protagonist. While Guy Boy Man is more trigger happy and erratic in behavior, she is the more calm of the two and would rather have things end peacefully. I honestly think that this is a nice balance to have in the book seeing as the protagonist is considered to be insane and having her be the voice of reason. She actually show compassion to not only the protagonist but to the zombies that inhabit the world around them.  She is also seen with her protector, a white unicorn that can’t be killed and has been known to gore people.


Sweet Honey is described in the book as ‘a handsome and extremely well endowed African American ninja and Guy Boy Man’s best friend. From his conception, he was taught to be a ninja in his mother’s womb and is shown throughout the book that he is extremely dangerous. From the beginning of the book, he and Guy Boy Man become quick friends and work together to fight the zombie hordes.

Story-Line

The story-line for this book is strange in its approach while retaining a common premise that has been used in mediums before. The protagonist Guy Boy Man learns that the world is controlled by zombies and young people’s future as either food or zombies depends of the results of the ZAT (Zombie Acceptance Test). He escapes his basement and soon kills his parents along with his teacher, which earns him the respect of a centaur named Centaur111 and his fairy followers who soon grant him all of the world’s wealth under a lone condition: If he tells a girl that he loves her, he will lose his entire fortune.

Enter the love interest Baby Doll15, who the protagonist becomes enamored with almost immediately after meeting her, creating the much seen conflict between love and money. He would later join forces with the ninja Sweet Honey and the other students as they try to vanquish the zombie hordes at Scare City High School under the ambiguous Principal’s leadership.

Though the large problem I see with the story-line of this book is that it is almost avoided. As I mentioned before, the character’s rambling thoughts and ideology diverts the readers from the plot of the story which can be detrimental. At times, you almost forget that the story has a plot. Again, I can’t tell if this is genius or insane.

The Insanity of It All

As I would state in the title of this review, this book is best described as literary Dada. For those who don’t know what Dada is, it is an artistic style dating back to after the events of World War One as a form of protest against the intellectual and cultural conformity that was brought up by the Bourgeois nationalist interests which some believe was one of the causes of World War One. Known artist Hans Richter would best describe Dada as not art, but ‘anti-art’ where the sole purpose was to ignore traditional aesthetics and to offend people. Some of the most well known examples of Dada art would be Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), Christian Schad’s  Appendectomy in Geneva (1929), and Alice Bailly’s Self-Portrait (1917). While the Dada movement was primarily focused during the years after World War One, several artists years later would follow suit and challenge traditional values of art. One of my favorites would be Andy Warhol’s 1981 video of him eating a hamburger and just because some people will think I am making it up, here is the video below.

What does this have to do with the book in question? Well, throughout the book, the reader is exposed to frequent moments of insanity and insight from the protagonist Guy Boy Man. From the start, he perceives the world around him as a decaying world where there are either people or zombies and to follow the norm is to become a zombie. While this could be an allegory to some people’s belief that you should follow your own respective happiness and ignore what everyone else is doing, the main character actively believes that he is a lone savior that must vanquish the zombie hordes. He even goes to the extent of creating his own religion with the intent of ‘ending human suffering’, which is oddly enough the website page for the author as well (see below).

Mythological characters such as fairies and centaurs are thrown into the story which the main character claims come from fairyland. Guy Boy Man has two demon representatives named Mike Hawk and York Hunt who are always eating Hot Pockets and drinking Red Bulls while Baby Doll15 has a unicorn that follows her around. The way that the dual demons talk to Guy Boy Man, it can be presumed that they are representations of his conscious, both with their portrayals of childish behaviors and their compulsion to point out the obvious to the protagonist. There are also zombies, ghosts, genetically modified European girls and other forms of madness that take literary form in this book.

Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies is essentially anti-literature, throwing out the traditional norms of writing to create its own voice and style. While this does provide a fresh means for readers to look at a story, it can turn off more traditional readers that are looking for a more cohesive story. Though I really don’t think that James Marshall cares what the traditionalists think.Sherlock F-You

Conclusion

If you read this story, chances are you are going to be one of two people:

  1. After reading a few pages, you shut it close and never look at it again,
  2. After reading a few pages, you keep reading because you find an aspect you like about it.

While this book is not for everyone (especially not young children), I would not be so quick to toss it aside. James Marshall creates an experience that delves into the protagonist’s mind as you see how he perceives the world around him, even with ideas and concepts that people usually refrain themselves from talking about such as pornography and starving children in third world countries. I would recommend you pick up this book, not because it is an amazing or horrible book, but just to partake in the literary insanity that James Marshall gives us.

If you want to purchase a copy of Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies, it is available at major retailers like Amazon.

James Marshall has a website which is a reference to the book How to End Human Suffering or if you want to check out the rest of what ChiZine has to offer, the website link is here.

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