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.
Acclaimed horror author Jonathan Maberry makes his young adult debut with this detail-rich depiction of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen, the dead have risen, and danger is always imminent.
**This review refers to the audio book version of the book, listened to on a Playaway Audio device**
First of all, although he’s not the main character, THANK YOU JONATHAN MABERRY for finally making a cool adult character in a YA book. Tom Imura is a total badass, a genuinely good guy, and a great protector for both his brother and for the town they live in.
Benny is a young man looking to find his place in the world, resistant to following in his brother’s footsteps. He hates Tom because of what he believes happened on First Night – which is that Tom took him and ran away, leaving their parents to die. It doesn’t help him resent Tom any less that he is a famous (by the standards of the world they live in) bounty hunter. Benny is determined not to follow in Tom’s path but seems unsuited for any other kind of work, so by default he finds himself killing zombies.
Rot & Ruin is more of a character driven book than a zombie action book, although there is plenty of zombie action and lots of tension. There is one catastrophic event in particular that sets in motion a chain of events that changes the lives of nearly everyone Benny knows, including he and his brother, his best friends, and the bounty hunters who scour the country side hunting down the zoms. If I had to describe this book in one sentence, it would probably be “a coming of age story with zombies.” That’s probably oversimplifying it more than a little bit, but it’s not inaccurate. And Maberry actually manages to make you feel sorry for the zombies by reminding you of the humans they were instead of just the monsters they’ve become.
The narrator is really good – something about his voice reminds me of a young Kasey Kasem, oddly enough.
I loved the little sprinkled references to the original Night of the Living Dead, the one in particular that comes to mind is a little mention during the part where Benny is describing the zombie cards. It’s just a cool little homage and I really liked it.
The ending was just a crusher. Just so sad. Not a cliffhanger (which I was glad for!) but it still made me anxious to read (or listen to) the next book in the series. Which I did, and enjoyed it a lot and will be reviewing at a later time. Maberry does zombies so well.