25 Mar 2011

Thoughts: Rot & Ruin

Title: Rot & Ruin
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Pages: 458
Source: Borrowed from library

In a post-apocalyptic world where fences and border patrols guard the few people left from the zombies that have overtaken civilization, fifteen-year-old Benny Imura is finally convinced that he must follow in his older brother's footsteps and become a bounty hunter.

In Benny's world, fifteen is the age at which people are expected to get a job and pull their weight otherwise their rations get cut. Benny and his friend Chong try out a variety of jobs; each one having disadvantages that make the boys decide not to keep it as a vocation. Eventually Chong takes on a job as a tower watcher and Benny, grudgingly, decides to apprentice under his older brother as a zombie bounty hunter.

Rot & Ruin was a book I picked up expecting to read the usual YA fare -- some sort of love triangle, some fluff about how horrible the zombies are blah blah blah. I was awesomely pleased when I finished the book because none of that was true. Jonathan Maberry has crafted a world in which the zombies are more part of the scenery instead of the catalyst to the story; a trend that I'm really starting to enjoy in my zombie fiction. Yes, Benny and Tom are zombie bounty hunters, but the story revolves around the humanity of the people who survived First Night rather than playing out scene after scene of zombies trying to break into the town to eat the survivors.

Benny doesn't like his brother. He thinks Tom is a coward and can't understand why people in town seem to treat him as some sort of hero. Eventually, after training with Tom, Benny starts to learn more about the people, and the world, he's grown up with; and not all is as it seems. Maberry has done a spectacular job telling a coming of age story where the main characters learn some hard truths about the world in which they live; mostly that the zombies may not be the most evil thing in the world.

The writing is tight and flows amazingly well. There is lots of action, a little bit of non-gushy romance (and /not/ a love triangle, thank god!), and tragedy; everything a good story should have. This is a book I'll pass on to my kid to read and one I'd recommend to zombie/post-apocalyptic fans.

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