Review: ROT & RUIN by Jonathan Maberry
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.
As Paperback Dolls annual “Zombie Week” and then of course, Halloween approaches I find myself on the look out for books to put me in the spirit to celebrate the festivities. Last year, it seemed much easier to find a zombie book or two to review for the feature, but this year my schedule hasn’t permitted me to read the way I would like. Like millions of other overly busy working adults my reading time has suffered and as I look longingly over at the beautiful pile of books I wish so desperately to devour, I have one saving grace…AUDIOBOOKS!
When it appeared I was going to miss out on contributing to Zombie Week, I went straight to Audible to download a couple of books that I had planned on reading and prepared to listen to instead. The biggest problem was deciding which book to get first. ROT & RUIN by Jonathan Maberry was one that I had been eye-balling for some time but for whatever reason always pushed it to the side. Big mistake-HUGE! From the moment I pushed play I was consumed by the story and the journey of the characters and their development along the way.
Benny Imura is an average 15 year old boy with average thoughts and angst but living in a time and situation that is anything but average. Benny goes to school, hangs out with friends, has typical boy-girl drama, and feels bitter toward his older brother, Tom, who he harbors resentment to and blames for his mother’s death when he was only two years old. Despite the fact that his brother has done an amazing job raising him, Benny’s memory (through the eyes of a two-year-old) of the night his parents died in the zombie apocalypse known as “first night”, won’t allow him to forgive his brother for running away and not helping his folks.
Although Benny has grown up in relative safety behind the fence of make-shift town with a population of approx 800, Zombies still walk outside the walls in what is known as the Rot and Ruin. It is because of the danger outside the town that people ages 15 and up, have to do their part and work in order to get a full ration of food. Hating the idea of working with his brother who is well respected in town as a zombie killer, Benny goes everywhere he can think of to apply for a job but has little luck. Getting a job is mandatory, so when all other doors close Benny swallows his pride and agrees to try working with Tom in the “family business”. From the very first moment Benny steps foot in the Rot & Ruin his life is altered and as he starts to question the things he once was so certain about, he begins the journey of finding out who he really is and becoming a man.
I enjoyed every minute of this story. The narrator did a great job of keeping the personalities varied and the story exciting. I have read reviews where some who have actually “read” the books found the first part slow and the second half un-put-downable, and all I can say is that listening to the audiobook, I didn’t experience that particular lull. The only thing I had an issue with (and it is minor) was in some of the repetitive dialogue between the characters. There were a couple times where things were brought up again or re-hashed that I personally feel could have been edited out of the story. All complaining aside, I enjoyed the book so much I immediately downloaded DUST & DECAY, the second book in the series.
ROT & RUIN is a zombie story that deals with some tough issues and at times disturbing descriptions, but at it’s very core it is a coming of age story with some remarkable and unforgettable characters. It was thrilling, heartbreaking, exciting and everything I had hoped it would be.