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.