“Rot & Ruin” by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster, 2010)

Rot & Ruin
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After his success with Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory, Jonathan Maberry turns his zombie writing skills to Rot & Ruin, giving young adult readers a chance to enjoy a good story of the living dead.  Maberry creates a strong and interesting post-apocalyptic world akin to that of Justin Cronin’s The Passage, and while the book contains strong themes, it’s a lot lighter and accessible because it’s written for teenagers.

Benny Imura just turned fifteen.  For any normal kid in our world that would mean he’s in the prime of his teen years, carefree and enjoying life with little responsibility.  But this is a different world, overrun by zombies, while protected pockets of humanity fight to keep the zombies – or walkers as they’re known – at bay while attempting to have some semblance of a normal life.  At fifteen, Benny has to get some sort of job that helps to improve society, whether it’s a fence tester, a fence technician, a locksmith (zombies can’t unlock doors), or an erosion artist – which is creating images of what specific people look like when they’ve been turned into zombies.  But Benny basically fails at all these jobs and has little choice other than to join his brother in the family business.

Benny’s brother, Tom is a renowned and respected zombie killer, a type of bounty hunter.  Upon request with the use of an erosion artist, he will seek out and kill a known zombie that was once a relative of a caring family.  Tom is trained with a number of weapons, but prefers to use a katana, which is quiet and deadly.  Benny reluctantly joins his brother, as Tom shows him the ropes and begins his training.  Benny soon discovers that there’s a reason they don’t teach the kids much about the real world in school, but Benny has to find out the hard way.  Tom’s generation was the one that created stability for these pockets of society, so they could get some control over their lives.  Benny’s generation is one that is looking to do something, to make a change to their sequestered lives.  There are rumors of a distant ocean and islands where there might be no zombies, or at least a controllable population.

Rot & Ruin is a great fun read for teens and adults, with a compelling story and a broad and well created world; a worthy addition to the large growing monster of zombie media.

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Originally written on October 29, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Waking: Dreams of the Dead” by Thomas Randall (Bloomsbury, 2009)

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Christopher Golden, author of The Boys Are Back in Town and coauthor of The Map of Moments, takes a journey away from his usual stories of the magical and horrific to tell a story of a different kind of horror and the macabre for a younger audience.  Because of this, Golden is writing under the pseudonym of Thomas Randall, taking us to Japan and its complex culture and ancient supernatural legends.

Kara Foster’s mother was killed in a car crash, leaving her and her father alone.  After years of studying Japanese culture and learning the language, they emigrate to Miyazu City where tall and blond Kara will be starting at a new school where her father teaches English.  She is terrified, wanting to make friends and fit in, but also knowing she is a gaijin or foreigner, and will have to work hard to gain the respect of others.  She eventually befriends the rebellious Sakura and learns of the dark history of Sakura’s sister at Monju-no-Chie school.  On the spit of land known as Ama-no-Hashidate she was murdered by a group of school girls for having the love of a boy she had no intention of returning.  And now those girls are starting to turn up dead, through mysterious circumstances, while they all appear to be having terrible nightmares involving girls without faces and terrifying cats with sharp claws and teeth – Kara included.  Sakura believes it to be the haunting spirit of her sister, exacting revenge, but as Kara discovers, it is something much worse.

Christopher Golden has outdone himself in taking the reader deep into Japanese culture, quick to explain how and why habits and characteristics are different, but at the same time he has a great horror story at the heart of Dreams of the Dead that will keep you riveted to the very end.  And the good news is this is the first of a ongoing series by Thomas Randall and includes the prologue and first chapter to the next book in the series, Spirits of the Noh.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 12th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with Christopher Golden check out BookBanter Episode 12.