ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry
Synopsis: In the post-apocolyptic zombie-ridden world, we find 15-year-old Benny Imura who is in the process of securing a job. In Mountainside, once you become of age, you must hold a job to earn your “keep” in the town. Benny’s brother, Tom, is a zombie hunter or a “closure specialist” as he likes to call it, so finding a job should have been easy for Benny, but it wasn’t. He avoids working with his older brother because, despite how revered he is among the people of Mountainside, Benny thinks Tom is a coward.
After he’s sucked royally at all the town’s available jobs, Benny gives in and becomes Tom’s apprentice. And that’s when Benny’s life changes. He ventures out into the Rot & Ruin with Tom (zombie land) where Benny gets to witness the “family business”. Tom finds zombies who have families back in Mountainside and he “frees” them by plunging a knife in the base of their skull. Benny learns that zombies aren’t just slack-jawed, slow-walking beings, they are people who once had families that were taken by the zombie disease.
Throughout the novel, Benny’s world comes crumbling down. The blinders he wore before, when he thought he was safe in Mountainside, and that The Motor City Hammer and Charlie Pink-Eye (also zombie hunters along with Tom) were the coolest/most brave guys in the world, have been stripped from him once Tom reveals the real reason that TMCH and CPE take to being zombie hunters. Gamelands.
Gamelands is a place where CPE and TMCH take human parents and children to fight zombies in a pit so he or she could receive more rations to feed their families. Disgusted and confused, Benny clings to his normal life with his friends Nix, Chong and Morgie, when he runs across a collector’s card of zombie hunters. Drawn to one in particular with a drawing of The Lost Girl, Benny starts to question who she is. A slew of events occur that cause Tom and Benny to venture out into the Rot & Ruin to rescue the kids trapped in Gameland and to find The Lost Girl.
BENNY IMURA COULDN’T HOLD A JOB, SO HE TOOK TO KILLING. It was the family business. He barely liked his family–and by family he meant his older brother, Tom– and he definitely didn’t like the idea of “business.” Or work. The only part of the deal that sounded like it might be fun was the actual killing.
If that isn’t a hook then I don’t know what else is. From here, we’ve found out a great deal of information about the main character. His race and what his family does for a living–obviously, killing. Benny is probably lazy because he doesn’t like working and he also couldn’t hold a job. He has a very strained relationship with his older brother, Tom and that makes me wonder why. What happened? Needless to say, I read on, curious to find out more.
Favorite Lines: [There were TOO MANY to list!]
Benny looked right into the creatures eyes, but all he saw were dust and emptiness. No reflections of any kind. No hunger or hate or malice either. There was nothing. A doll’s eyes had more life. – Page 13
She even pulled up her sleeve and flexed her biceps. She had pale skin with freckles as dark as liver spots, and the sudden pop of her biceps looked like a swollen tumor. Chong fake vomited into his lunch bag. – Page 16
A moment later there was a flash of lightning so long and bright that even through the shutters, it lit the whole kitchen to an unnatural whiteness, and immediately there was a crack of thunder that was the loudest sound Benny had ever heard. And then the screaming began. – Page 204
Often it was the most unlikely of people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best. – Page 266
Review (My thoughts): I had no idea what to expect out of this book. I read tons of reviews previously, raving about how wonderful and emotional it was. I was genuinely confused, thinking that there couldn’t have been that much emotion in a book about zombies. And I was totally wrong. ROT & RUIN had me seconds away from tearing up. I laughed out loud when I read this book, I gasped, my heart raced. Maberry’s writing is clear and concise but riddled with beautiful language that is often times poetic and whimsical. I know, right? I was thinking the same thing! This is a ZOMBIE book!
But it’s so much more. It’s oh so much more than that. It’s a book about friendship, love, bravery and a little boy thrust into his own greatness. You all know I love stories like that, hence why I’m so obsessed with Harry Potter.
The use of cliffhangers is excellent in this novel! I literally couldn’t put it down. I missed my stop on the train at least three times not wanting to stop reading. It was addicting. One cannot simply stop reading.
Another pleasant surprise is that Tom was actually a member of the police force before the zombie apocalypse took over. So, there were some detective elements to this book as well and you all know how I love a good who duunit.
Sometimes, I was a little upset at Benny because he was acting so immaturely when he was living in a situation that called for him to look at things like an adult. But, I guess you can’t really expect that out of a 15-year-old boy. Even though there were times he stepped up, the writer gives you a fresh reminder that Benny is a regular kid who is scared to tell a girl he likes her, and that struggles with right and wrong. I wanted Benny to treat his brother better and I was kind of upset that it took until almost the end of the book for Benny to realize that his brother wasn’t a coward after all, and was only stoic and reserved because he had to be in his nature of business. Literally, that was the only thing I disliked about this book.
5 glasses – ROT AND RUIN is a definite must read! I’m totally obsessed! This novel is not what you expect at all! It totally smacked me over the head because I was going into it thinking it would be like reading The Walking Dead. Instead, it was more about relationships and what it means to truly survive in the zombie apocalypse. Oh, it was full of blood and gore, but the zombies were a backdrop to the actual plot of Benny and Tom’s adventure into the Rot and Ruin.