Rot & Ruin

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan MaberryRot & 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.

Rating: [rating=4]

My copy: borrowed from Aaron (which we gave him as a birthday gift :) )

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Guy Gone Geek
taking a break
My Favorite Books


Zombicorns by John Green
Project for Awesome contribution, 72 pages

There are a few authors who can do nothing wrong as far as I am concerned, and John Green is one of them. I’ve been seeing him tweet about a novella he was writing, but I never thought it would be released, and never thought what it was about. And then Aaron tweets about it, and I jumped in my seat. A zombie novella by John Green? And the title — does this mean there are unicorns? It was like a dream come true!

Zombicorns tells the account of Mia, a zombie apocalypse survivor in search of meaning in a bleak world. Technology and reliable document management solutions has fallen because of the rise of the zombies, so Mia’s only hope of getting her message across was this account of her life in the apocalypse. It’s a first person account that has the same kind of snark and unique to Green’s characters, despite the lack of geekiness in Mia. The circumstances that brought about the apocalypse in Zombicorns was funny and unexpected, and these zombies are the most unusual I’ve read so far. Not that I’m complaining — anything is possible in an apocalyptic novel, IMHO.

The best thing about this novella is how deep it goes. True to the John Green signature, this novel is funny and still it manages to capture human emotion in the unique way he does. The seriousness of Mia’s questions about life almost took me by surprise, but in a good way. It goes to show how good John Green is with the things he decides to write about. I didn’t even notice the lack of editing for Zombicorns — it’s even better than any of my drafts. (But hello — this is John Green we are talking about. I am not worthy to compare!)

I may be biased to say that this is a good read because I love the author, but it is a good one. If you can’t find any of his books yet, this may be a good one to start with. After all, it’s free. What’s there to lose, right? :)

Let me retract what I said on the first paragraph, though: there really are no unicorns in this story. This just means I have yet to read about actual zombie unicorns. Darn it.

Rating: [rating=4]

My copy: PDF, free download

Cover: from PDF

Other reviews:

Never were they myth

Naermyth by Karen Francisco
Publisher: Visprint
Number of pages: 304
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked

Never were they myth in the first place…

The world ended. It was not because of a comet, prophecy, natural disaster or whatever garbage foretold on the internet, but because every myth ever written turned out to be an account of historical fact. These monsters we’ve read about as children waged a war that lead to the human race’s downfall. And the unlucky who survived are hunted down or, worse, tortured.

In these dark times, people could only turn to the Shepherd for help. I am one such Shepherd and I thought my only task was to protect the few humans who still thrived on this desolate world. But when I rescued Dorian from Dwende captivity, I discovered that not only is he the most dangerous thing to have around, but he could be our one hope for redemption. I now find myself protecting a born killer, but in doing so, I’m turning my back on everything human.

* * *

I spotted Naermyth by Karen Francisco in Fully Booked by sheer accident. I was supposed to get The Giver by Lois Lowry when I felt like ambling over to the Filipiniana section of the store and then I saw the black and orange spine of the book. I thought it was just a new local comics or something but when I read the blurb, I was sold. Could it be? Local dystopian fantasy? This I have to read.

Naermyth is a word play on the phrase “never myth”, which is what the people used to describe creatures that caused the apocalypse after they attacked the human race. These are creatures from Philippine mythology that we have often watched or heard stories from as children — aswang, duwende, kapre, nuno sa punso, diwata, etc — that we thought were just that: myths. However, it turns out they were never myths at all, and they attacked defenseless humans, quickly wiping out civilizations and most of the population. The only remaining resistance against these creatures are the National Bureau of Conflict and Transport or the NaBuCAT, informally known as the Shepherds, who find remaining survivors and give them refuge against the Naermyth.

The story is set in the Philippines 5 years after the war between human and Naermyth started. We meet Athena “Aegis” Dizon, one of the best Shepherds on their way back to the Ruins after a rescue mission. Aegis is one of the best Shepherds in their NaBuCAT branch, but she is also one of the least affectionate and most brash among all of them, an issue that her brothers often tease her with. Aegis doesn’t mind, because she knows that if she wants to live in the world now, there is no room to be soft. On their way back to their headquarters after a particularly bad night with an aswang and a duwende in the morning, Aegis rescues Dorian, a mysterious man who has no memory of the last five years and no knowledge of the Naermyth at all. Aegis brings him to the headquarters, and despite her usually brash nature, she finds herself connected to Dorian in ways she could not explain. When they find out what Dorian is, Aegis goes against all she believed in as a Shepherd to protect him. As Dorian tries to find out about his past, Aegis finds out more about hers, and they uncover a conspiracy that could destroy everything they had worked for.

I think the best thing about Naermyth is its realistic world building. It’s often hard to get into dystopian fiction especially if the world is does not feel real, but Karen Francisco managed to create a very believable post-apocalyptic Philippines, making the different places in the country come alive as a setting. I liked how she used Ruins as a fortress from its bazaar status in the past, and how Makati is Naermyth territory because of how it used to be a swamp. It wasn’t contained in Manila, too, but in other provinces in the Philippines: Baguio is a dead spot for Naermyth because of its altitude, as is Pangasinan being the country’s salt center (salt was used as a weapon against aswang because it stops them from regenerating), while Capiz is obviously Naermyth headquarters. And it didn’t stop there, too, because it’s not post-apocalypse if it doesn’t involve the rest of the world, right? Other countries were also affected by the uprising of these creatures, but each country has their own kind of Naermyth based on their folklore. Norway has dragons, and yes, even the Loch Ness monster is alive. With all these elements securely in place, it’s easy to believe in the world that Aegis lives in, and I don’t get surprised when weirder creatures surface.

That being said, however, Naermyth suffers from attempting to cover so much ground in one book. Don’t get me wrong — I liked a good mystery, I liked conspiracies, I liked betrayals in my dystopian fiction. However, I felt a little bit overwhelmed with all the events happening…and then, that feeling would be abruptly interrupted with information overload, in the form of a dialogue. It seemed like some parts of the book were too much tell rather show, and even the encounter with the bad guy at the end felt more telling than showing. Also, while I liked Aegis as a heroine, I wasn’t sold on her past. I felt that it was opened up a little too late. If Aegis’ past was so important in the end, I didn’t feel it was stressed too much at the start since most of the focus was on her family and Dorian’s past. The romantic angle was kind of weak, too, and personally, I could have done without it. And if you would allow me to nitpick a bit — I was very distracted at how many synonyms of “said” were used. I’d like to believe that the characters don’t always roar or scream when they’re in a normal conversation. It is true what they said: replacing “said” a bit too many times in the text is very distracting.

I think Naermyth is the first of its kind that is not a graphic novel (correct me if I am wrong, though), and I think it’s a feat in itself. This book is a fulfillment of what some friends and I were wishing for a few months back: a fantasy novel written by a Filipino that makes use of the plethora of creatures from our own mythology. Despite my slight issue with the plot and the pacing and that little nitpick, I still enjoyed reading Naermyth. This is not YA, but I think YA dystopian fantasy fans will like this well enough. It’s a solid debut, and this book gives me hope that we will see more Filipino fantasy books on shelves (virtual or not) soon. It’s about time, don’t you think? :)

You can find more info on the book on the official website, and look, a book trailer!


Rating: [rating=4]

Other reviews:
Taking a Break