Rot & Ruin- Jonathan Maberry

Benny Imura lives in a post-zombie apocalypse world where you have to pick a job when you turn 15.  He reluctantly joins his brother, Tom, in the family business of zombie hunting.  Hunting zombies out in the Rot and Ruin makes Benny grow up fast and forces him to confront the evils of humanity.

I’d never read a book about zombies before, so when I saw this on the Lone Star books display at my public library, I picked it up thinking it would be interesting to try something with zombies and that if it was a Lone Star pick, it would probably be good.  This is a book I have really mixed feelings about.  There was a kernel of a good book here, but the execution just didn’t live up to the idea, unfortunately.

This book was 450 pages and I felt every one of those pages.  I could actually see the author trying to create suspense by writing an entire chapter for something that could have been done in a sentence or two.  For example, Benny sees a jumbo jet fly overhead- something truly strange since his settlement has sworn off electricity and modern technologies.  The author felt the need to make this part into an entire chapter which started off with Benny dreaming about a loud noise and then waking up and finding the noise is real and then running out and looking up at the sky and exclaiming that what he sees is totally unbelievable and he’s never seen one before and then ending with a statement that it was a jumbo jet in the sky.  Seriously?  I knew from the moment they looked at the sky it was an airplane.  I don’t live in a society where airplanes don’t exist.  I don’t need all the explanation.  It did nothing to enhance the story and in fact is just setting you up for book two.  Also, more words and pages doesn’t equal suspense… sometimes more pages just equals boredom!

The author, I think, also chooses to focus on some really dull aspects of his story.  There is this place called Gameland where bad zombie hunters pit kidnapped children against zombies in fights to the (un)death.  And while Gameland is pretty integral to the main conflict in the book, we don’t ever see it.  We just get secondhand stories about the horrors of it.  My best guess is that Gameland is either being saved for a sequel or that it was thought to be too graphic for the audience (not sure how that would work in light of The Hunger Games, but yeah).  It was just a great idea that could have served as a much more interesting way to present the Big Issues and Lesson Learned.

I also think that this could have been a better book if we’d gotten the story from the point of view of Benny’s adult brother, Tom.  Tom was totally badass and had actually lived through the zombie apocalypse and war and had burned down Gameland I (the one in this book is actually the second reincarnation of the place).  Benny was just a whiny teenage boy.  He complained constantly about his big brother and initially hero-worships the evilest character in the book.  It’s not really endearing.  (I will admit that Benny does gets more tolerable as the book goes on and he grows up some.)

I almost gave up on this book, but I didn’t, so obviously there was something worthwhile here.  I liked that the author made a big deal of the fact that zombies are not conscious of the fact that they are harming people and are therefore less morally bad than the bad guys who CHOOSE to harm other people.  It was just interesting that the biggest threat to people in a zombie-filled world is other people.

I really think this is a book meant for 13 year old boys who don’t do a lot of reading.  As I don’t fall into that category, I think whatever charm this book had was (mostly) lost on me.