Rot and Ruin – Book Review
By Lora Van Marel
Staff Writer, One-Woman Show
Benny Imura is 15 years old. He has lived through a zombie apocalypse. He now lives in Mountainside, a town completely surrounded by fences, where all 15-year-olds must get a job in order to keep their food rations. The fences of Mountainside keep the zombies out and the living in. The only people that venture out into the wild, the Rot and Ruin, are bounty hunters and traders.
Benny has tried many jobs, but can’t seem to hold any. His time is running out so he decides he must join the family business — bounty hunting. Benny’s older brother Tom is a bounty hunter and he travels into the Rot and Ruin to kill zombies. Benny believes his brother to be a coward, and is only agreeing to this apprenticeship because there is no other option.
Soon, Benny starts to realize there is a lot more to this job than he thought. Tom just doesn’t kill zombies, he gives people closure. And maybe the world’s worst evil isn’t actually the zombies, but in fact, other humans. Benny discovers that there are people out in the vast Rot and Ruin that are pitting innocent humans against zombies for sport. He starts to grow up, and very quickly.
Maberry takes the typical zombie story and hits the fast forward button. Human civilization has started to rebuild in this world. Benny has lived his whole life in a world of zombies and doesn’t know any different. For him, zombies have always been there and probably always will remain. He hates zombies blindly because he’s been taught to. They are dangerous and can turn your loved ones into something horrific in a split second.
This view of zombies is the typical one. Most other zombie books and movies go that route. Maberry asks the question, is it ethical to kill a zombie? They used to be people. They used to be someone’s loved one and now they have no will, only the drive to eat. They don’t know what they’re doing, they can’t help themselves. They have no choice.
This is where Tom steps in. His way of bounty hunting is more of a funeral for a zombie. It sounds absurd, because zombies are already dead, but the character believes strongly that each zombie was once loved and therefore deserves to be put to rest when necessary.
Reading this story was fun. It went quickly and was filled with twists and turns. It’s fascinating to find out that the true evil in the world comes from those who have a choice, the living, rather than the zombies. Benny slowly realizes this and his world turns upside down. He’s growing up and finding out some answers that are very difficult to deal with. Maberry showcases that well and really has the reader feeling what Benny does.
There was gore, but not graphic violence and the adventure is present on every page, as is the emotion. Each character is unique and has their own story to tell, which keeps the audience interested and invested. So when things start turning for the worse and people start dying at the hands of humans, not zombies, it has a much stronger impact on the audience.
These killings create a mystery, so the story turns from zombie survival to epic adventure. To help the readers stay attentive, there is foreshadowing all over the place. Some would complain that it made the book too predictable, but in this instance it made solving the mysteries that much more enjoyable. Fitting all the pieces together to get to the end was satisfying.
This book stands out from other zombie lore because it has a moral discussion driving the plot. It also poses the question: How do humans go on after zombies have taken over? It’s the next step, it continues where so many other books end.
It’s a tame enough book violence-wise. People who aren’t the biggest zombie fans will still enjoy it. However, the story was written for zombie lovers. They are the ones that will truly love the story and won’t want the book to end. It’s hard to put this one down, and when it’s done you’re left wanting more. The good news is that this is the first in a series; with the second book Dust and Decay coming out sometime in 2011.