Friday, October 14, 2011
Review of Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Published: October 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn't want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.
I was a bit unsure what to expect from this book. Novels with male protagonists aren't my normal taste, but the cover and blurb really drew me in. What I found was the male version of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Not that they are similar as far as plot or characters go, but the underlying message seemed to be alike, that we can't shut out the rest of the world.
Benny at first seems very immature and sheltered, considering the zombie infested world he lives in, hanging out with his friends and looking for a job that pays great but requires little effort. Once he's forced into working with his brother, his character begins to grow and that for me carried the story. There were parts of the plot, such as the zombie games, that seemed a bit stereotypical post-apocalyptic movie, but it's how Benny comes to his realizations about himself, his brother, and his world that really kept me reading.
Benny is a true three dimensional character. We see all sides of him, and the way Maberry mixes the darkness of a horror story with the sometimes humorous thoughts of a teenage boy is refreshing. I didn't feel like Benny' was being forced down a path by circumstances. He actively chooses his path to the end of the book.
Maberry managed to keep a certain lightness to much of the story, and it's partly because Benny isn't aware of the horror in the Rot & Ruin where the zombies continue to dwell. The violence isn't over done and Benny's brother Tom manages to humanize the zombies in a way that actually makes the ending so sad to read.
This is the first of the Benny Imura series, with Dust & Decay the second book and he has a few other Zombie books out as well. I'm already looking forward to reading more by Mr. Maberry!