(Cover picture courtesy of Fic Talk.)
Benny Imura couldn’t hold a job, so he took to killing.
In the zombie-infested world Benny has grown up in, teenagers must work once they turn fifteen—or they’ll lose their food rations. Benny isn’t interested in taking on the family business, but he reluctantly agrees to train as a zombie killer with his boring big brother, Tom. He expects a dull job, whacking zombies for cash. What he discovers is a vocation that will teach him what it really means to be human.
As his worldview is challenged again and again by the lessons he learns from Tom, Benny is forced to confront another horrifying reality: Sometimes the most terrible monsters are human.
Critically acclaimed author Jonathon Maberry crafts a terrifying future vision of a zombie apocalypse, brought to life through the rich emotional struggles of a teenager trying to find his place in a tumultuous new world.
At first, it seemed like Rot & Ruin was going to be a lot like The Return Man. It was in some ways, but Jonathan Maberry focused more on the human aspect and how people would deal with the dead suddenly rising rather than a huge conspiracy for a cure. I smell conspiracy in the future books, but Rot & Ruin was a surprisingly human take on a zombie apocalypse.
For the first half of the book I wanted to punch Benny for calling his brother Tom a coward and hating him. It was such a relief when Tom took on Benny as a reluctant apprentice and brought him out into the Rot & Ruin beyond the safe fence of the community. The wastelands beyond the community are an interesting take on what would happen to humanity in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Benny meets people who believe zombies are divine and people who treat them sadistically and has to reconcile his burning hatred for zombies. It’s an interesting character arc that I really can’t complain about.
The plot took a couple of interesting twists, but one thing I didn’t like was the Deus ex Machina at the end. Yes, it was nice because the character in question was the best character of the novel, but I would have liked something a little less cliché. Either way, it was still great to see Benny’s relationship with Tom improve and for him to realize his growing feelings for Nix, his best friend.
Overall, Rot & Ruin was a great book that had a fresh perspective on how people would deal with a zombie apocalypse. I can’t wait to read the sequel: Dust & Decay.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.