Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
(Benny Imura # 1)
Simon & Schuster, 458 pages
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 missed my zombies. The last time I read a full-length zombie novel was back in November, Married with Zombies, and it wasn’t really an awesome read at that. I think I got a bit grossed out with the surprising gore part in that novel that’s why I took a break from reading zombie novels. Then the holidays came and I didn’t want to read about the living dead so I just let them wait a bit more. John Green’s Zombicorns whetted my appetite for zombies again, so I got the closest one from my TBR and devoured it last weekend.
Devour. A funny term to use for a zombie novel, but that is exactly what I did for Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. I was in the middle of reading Emma then, and I wasn’t going anywhere with it, so I decided to take a break with the classic and start this one. Rot & Ruin tells the story of Benny Imura, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives in one of the villages in a post-apocalyptic America. It has been 13 years since the First Night, the night when the dead rose and infected the living. Benny lives with his older half-brother, Tom, a famous bounty hunter who prefers to be called a closure specialist. Benny hates his brother because he thought him as a coward from his first memory of his parents getting infected during the First Night. As part of their village’s rules, Benny has to find a part time job when he turns fifteen, and because of the lack of choices, he ends up being an apprentice under his brother. A day in the Rot and Ruin changes Benny’s life, and he finds that maybe all the things he knew and believed about his brother may be wrong. The question is, will Benny be able to live up to what his brother stands for when it’s really needed?
When I asked Aaron which I should read first when I was choosing between this and Charlie Higson’s The Enemy, he told me to pick Rot & Ruin if I wanted heart over gore. And he’s true: this is a zombie novel with a heart. I liked how Maberry showed the human aspect of the zombies, weird as that may sound. But if you really think about it, zombies are from humans. I’m not saying they are humans, but they were — they’re a brother, sister, father, mother, lover, friend. Video games and movies show that zombies are mindless monsters in search for human brains that need to be killed to stop the infection, but the human side, the loss, is not often discussed. The author did a very good job in showing us these emotions, and showing us that even in the midst of a world where zombies are a curse, there’s a humane way in treating them and making them (and the loved ones they left behind) move on in peace.
Rot & Ruin‘s world was very believable, and I liked how Maberry created Benny’s village. There’s a stifling, almost oppressive aura in the village, one that pressed on the characters until they have no choice but to leave. I liked how the author used this to make the characters move from their sheltered homes to the outside world. In a way, Benny’s village could be any place in the present world, minus the zoms — anywhere where people are happy with how they live even if it means turning a blind eye to injustices happening around them is the same as Benny’s world, and maybe even worse. Rot & Ruin is not just about killing zombies, but a book about humanity and family.
This is probably one of the other zombie novels I’ve read that has almost lived up to the love I have for Feed by Mira Grant. I think I may just be partial to Feed more because I could relate to the characters better since they’re bloggers (and Georgia is just so awesome, too). Nevertheless, I highly recommend Rot & Ruin for those who want to read a very good book with zombies in it. I am looking forward to Benny’s return in Dust & Decay this year.
My copy: borrowed from Aaron (which we gave him as a birthday gift :) )
Cover and blurb: Goodreads