In post-apocalyptic America, 15-year-old Benny Imura and his friends set out into the great Rot & Ruin hoping to find a better future but are soon pitted against zombies, wild animals, insane murderers, and the horrors of Gameland.
**Review is of Dust & Decay audiobook listened to on a Playaway audio device**
There are spoilers for Rot & Ruin below, so read at your own risk if you haven’t read the first book in the series.
Dust & Decay picks up pretty much where Rot & Ruin left off. The group is planning to set off and locate the source of the jet they saw in the sky, a sign to them that there is still humanity out there somewhere instead of the small community surrounded by wasteland where they live. Benny has grown as a result of his experiences in the last book, but in a lot of ways he’s still a kid with an optimistic outlook. Nix is very different – her experiences in Rot & Ruin have affected her deeply and she’s nowhere near the carefree girl she used to be. She’s aged a great deal in terms of maturity and has become rather jaded about the world. And Lilah grows a great deal as she adjusts to living with people again, which was cool to see. Morgie has lost his damn mind and he plays a pretty small role in this book, but Chong plays a significantly larger one than he did in R&R. AND you get to meet more of Tom’s fellow bounty hunters, which was really cool. Some of them are very interesting characters.
I was glad to see that Benny & Tom’s relationship had changed significantly for the better. After resolving their issues from the first book (which ended on a fairly gut wrenching note, by the way) they are now working together instead of in opposition to one another, and that adds a nice dynamic to the story. The hate that Benny felt for Tom has been replaced by respect as he realized what really happened on First Night and what Tom’s actions were really all about.
The villain(s) in this book are just INSANE. Like, way worse than Charlie Pink Eye. You’d think that would be difficult, and it is, which gives you some idea about how bad it truly was. You never really know who to trust in this book and there are some major twists, a few you may see coming and at least one that I can say with absolute certainty that I did not.
The narrator is the same as in the first book and the continuity was nice. He does a good job reading the story, and although he doesn’t do different voices for the characters the way a lot of narrators do I was fine with that. Sometimes giving different voices to that many characters can begin to sound cartoonish. He reads it pretty straightforward.
There are a couple of suuuper nice references to the original Night of the Living Dead movies – especially by having news of the first outbreak start near Pittsburgh (and by the way, if you’re into zombies it’s pretty awesome living in the zombie capital of the world). And mentioning running zombies in Milwaukee, where the Dawn of the Dead remake takes place? Awesome. I know that can’t be unintentional. I’m sure there were other references that I just missed as well. I love these cool little additions to the overall book.
Maberry is pretty ruthless with his characters, which I mostly appreciate, but the end is just a total sucker punch. I was actually like NOOOOOO!, which was a problem since I was listening at work. It was the hardest part to listen to, yet it totally made the book as good as it was. Looking forward to the next installment in the series.