Rot & Ruin: 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. – Goodreads
Rot and Ruin Review
Rot and Ruin was a quietly entertaining read. It definitely completely engrossed me a few times, and I have to say that I’m pretty sure Jonathan Maberry has the distinction of being the only person to make me feel vaguely sad for the zombies. Not sure how I feel about that, mind you, as I rather like my zombies to remain mindless flesh-eating creatures of horror, but it is what it is.
The story is well-written, and Maberry’s observations on one way society could go after an apocalyptic disaster seems quite believable. Benny is a fairly well-developed teenager, and the crew he surrounds himself with is definitely varied. However, I couldn’t escape the “been there, read this” feeling that tended to permeate the book. I don’t think this is anything to lay at the feet of Maberry, but more a general yearning for more books that break away from the “It’s not zombies you have to fear…”*dramatic pause* “it’s people!” pigeonhole these books tend to consistently fall into. I want my scary zombie books back, please and thank you. A fight against the virus, a horrible mutated monster, etc. Anything but this “Yeah, zombies are scary, sure, but they’re not what you really have to fear.” I’m quite aware people are toe-rags. I read to escape that.
Anyways, for a young adult dystopian fic, Maberry almost/ kind of skirts the love triangle cliché, and he doesn’t make his protagonist some sort of almost unnaturally talented fighter, so there’s a couple of points in his favor. However, as many times as the book surprised me, it was also equally predictable.
Overall, ground-breaking work of the post-apocalyptic genre it is not, but it is nonetheless a solid Young Adult book that is a fairly large hit for a reason. I’d recommend it.