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 Jonathan 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.
Jonathan Maberry’s tale starts out 14 years after the zombie apocalypse which decimated the world’s population. Humans live in fortified communities for the most part, small bands of loners, merchants, and bounty hunters being the only people who travel between the areas. The wildland between the towns is referred to as the “Great Rot & Ruin”. Out in those lands, anything goes. Zombies roam freely, and some of the evilest, nastiest, and craziest people rule. There is even a throwback to gladiator days in the ruin. Children and women are put into pits to fight zombies while the onlookers place bets. It’s a land of no rules and no morals unless they are brought out by the people traveling the wilderness. This is the world that Benny Imura knows, and the world he is going to be traveling with his brother.
Maberry creates an entirely believable world where zombies shamble and humanity is on the brink of annihilation. What is extremely enjoyable is that the zombies themselves do not take the lead role as the villian. Humans, in all of their variable beliefs, play both the worst villians and the most noble heroes. The zombies have become an added hazard to life; they are something that must be dealt with consideration and care. The fact that the worst of the crimes in this book are committed by those who are also reverred as heroes by some shows how Maberry accurately portrays humanity. This type of writing creates a more reality based apocalypse than the norm, and that is what I look for in zombie fiction.
I do not read many books that are meant for the Young Adult readers, but I have to say that I absolutely loved this book and its sequel Dust & Decay. The characters that Maberry creates are believable, enjoyable, and recognizable. You can easily imagine yourself in the character’s shoes, whether it be the Imura brothers, the townsfolk of Mountainside, or the loners and traders of the wilds. I cannot recommend Maberry’s books more.
See below for a video of Maberry discussing Rot & Ruin:
The sequel to Rot & Ruin is Dust & Decay. The story of the Imura brothers continues as they go back out into the wilderness to be confronted with more human depravity, wild animals not seen in the wilds of the United States ever, and the ever present threat of zombies. A summary of the story was listed on the dust cover and is presented here:
Benny Imura and Nix Riley can’t forget the jet they say fly over the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot and Ruin. Now–after months of rigorous training with Tom, Benny’s zombie-hunter brother–Benny, Nix, Lilah the Lost Girl, and Chong are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future.
But from the start, everything goes wrong. They are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, and insane murderers, and are faced with the horrors of a rebuilt Gameland, where teenagers are forced to fight for their lives in the zombie pits. Worst of all…could Charlie Pink-Eye still be alive?
Maberry continues his tale of the brothers but also adds in a sense of community and responsibility between a group of the bounty hunters and loners who haunt the wilderness. There is a large conflict between those portrayed as evil (the ones who force children to fight in pits against the hungry dead) verse the wild ones who are taking up for the side of good.
In this highly enjoyable sequel, Maberry introduces us to additional players whose morales may mirror or contradict all that we believe we would stand for if we were faced with these troubled times. The Imura brother’s conflict and refusal to give in presents the reader with truly heroic characters to appreciate.
Follow Benny, Tom, and their friends as they travel the Great Rot & Ruin in search of vestiges of civilization. Watch as they encounter other survivors and loners who inhabit the wilderness. Once again, Maberry creates completely believable characters who do what they need to in order to survive in this insane world. The largest difference between the characters is how they define themselves and their actions when it comes to dealing with other survivors and even the undead.
I recommend that all readers of zombie fiction check out these two books, even if you do not fall into the Young Adult category. These books will prove entertaining to any reader. Keep an eye out for other books and short stories written by Jonathan Maberry. You will not be disappointed.