Friday, 11 March 2011

Review: Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
Released: March 3rd, 2011
Grade rating: A-

Amazon summary:

Nearly fourteen years ago a freak virus swept across the world turning those infected from the living into the undead. Benny Imura has grown-up never knowing anything different; his last memories of his parents tainted by the image of them becoming zombies. Now Benny is fifteen, and his brother Tom wants him to join the "family business" and train as a zombie killer. The last thing Benny wants is to work with Tom --- but at least the job should be an easy ride. Then the brothers head into the Rot and Ruin, an area full of wandering zombies, and Benny realises that being a bounty hunter isn't just about whacking zombies. As he's confronted with the truths about the world around him, Benny finds his beliefs challenged and makes the most terrifying discovery of all, that sometimes the worst monsters you can imagine, are human...


Zombies have never been my favourite paranormal creature, if that's what you'd call them. I'm more into bloodsucking vampires than flesh-eating decomposing people, and haven't had the best relationship with YA zombie books in the past. I'm not really a fan of the comedic or romantic living dead, which is all I've come across so far. Until I read Rot and Ruin, that is. This book doesn't include zombies keen on talking or flirting (shudder), but rather zombies hellbent on killing any human they can. In other words, the living dead are back, and they're back in style.

Rot and Ruin is a post-apocalyptic, edge-of-your-seat thriller that just happens to take place in a world where most of the population are dead. No-one knows exactly what caused it, whether it was a plague or something similar, they just know it's happened. Fences keep them safely away in the rot and ruin, and allow a small amount of humans to go about their lives in whichever way they choose. For Benny and Tom Imura, that means hanging out with friends and killing zombies, respectively. Benny's the 15-year-old smart ass, while his older brother Tom is the one with the responsibility and useful weapons. When Tom gives Benny the opportunity to join him in the family business, all hell breaks loose. Quite literally, too.

What follows in this 458-page novel is an epic journey in search of The Lost Girl, numerous meetings with the walking dead and a kick-ass collection of zombie trading cards. It's all go in the future, don'tcha know? Things have changed dramatically; the world is empty, human company is a luxury and death lurks around every corner. The monsters in Benny's life are real, and there's no escape. It's a lonely existence, but one that their small group accept and get on with. There's no 'woe is me' speech cluttering every other page, and it's all the better for it. It is how it is, and it ain't changing any time soon.

Rot and Ruin explores monsters in the literal sense, but also in the subtler sense too. Benny soon learns that not all killers are reanimated corpses, and that humans are capable of bone-chilling horrors too. A place called Gameland is proof of this, and plays a large part in Benny's travels through the rot and ruin. I hope we see a lot more of Gameland in the next book, Dust and Decay, and I have a feeling we will. It's a terrifying concept, but one that obviously has a bigger story waiting to be told.

Rot and Ruin is the best zombie book I've ever read, and I think I'll be hard pressed to beat it. I wouldn't have minded it being a bit shorter but, on reflection, this world needed to be set up and described in great detail. Without it, the desolation and despair wouldn't have hit me as hard, and that would have been a great shame. Jonathan Maberry has gifted YA readers with an exciting, fresh look at a race of creatures that seemed to be forgotten in teen fiction, and he's succeeded in making me a fan. I really can't wait for Dust and Decay!


Katherine Langrish said...

OK... I might take a look at this. I don't go for zombies much either (too squeamish) but this one sounds interesting!

Carmen said...

I haven't read about any comedic or romantic zombies - not sure I'd like them either. However this sounds amazing - am definitely in a zombie phase at the moment so will definitely check this out!

Blueicegal ♥ said...

Fantastic review Jenny! I have never been fond of Zombies, they just give me the jeebies! Not sure If I can read something with zombies in it, but you make this sound so awesome!

jonathanmaberry said...

So glad you enjoyed the first Benny Imura adventure. Writing it was a serious departure for me from the adult-oriented action thrillers and mainstream horror novels I regularly write.

Now that I've taken a dip into the world of teen fiction, though, I think I'm here to stay.

Thanks again for this insightful, funny and very nicely composed review!


Goon said...

I don't normally like zombie books either, and I loved Rot and Ruin.

One thing I didn't like was how childish the author made Benny at the beginning. I know that he was supposed to be portrayed as a bratty ignorant kid, but when I was reading it I kept on imagining him as a 9 year old because he was so childish.
It screwed up my timeline a little. :P

Other than that I think that it was a really amazing book. I can't wait for the 2nd one. It's going to be great.

Dunlap Librarian said...

I wasn't into zombie books until reading Forest of Hands and Teeth (and its sequel/companion novel, Dead Tossed Waves) by Carrie Ryan. There's romance, but not between the living and the undead. Instead, its a really realistic look at the horrors of a zombie apocalypse. You should check it out!

Lindsey said...

I agree that this is the best zombie book I have ever read, It was chosen for the Mock Printz winner at my library. We are making a book trailer about it this summer. I posted a review and linked to yours. Thanks for the insights!

Novels On The Run said...

Great review and interview!! I loved Rot and Ruin and Dust and Decay, awesome!! Im not a fan of gore etc, but these books have something special. I suppose @Goon I can agree with you with Benny appearing quite younger than his 15yrs , but having said that after finishing Dust and Decay I think that problem is now erased. I highly recommend this series to the non zombie fan as these books are filled with soooo much emotion, well Dust and Decay undid me a bit, very heart felt book.