Rot and Ruin (Benny Imura #1) By Jonathan Maberry ****
“Anyone seeing those three teenagers smiling the kinds of smiles they wore would run in terror. Benny was counting on it.”
This story takes place 14 years after First Night – the night when anyone who died turned into a zombie. As the night went on, more and more people died, and thus more and more people became zombies. Now Benny is 15, the year when you either get a job or your rations get cut. After trying out a few different occupations, he ends up apprenticing to his brother, Tom: a zombie bounty hunter.
But there’s more to Tom’s job than Benny could have guessed. Tom doesn’t just kill zombies, but he specializes in closure. Learning Tom’s job teaches Benny about the ways of this world that the people in town don’t talk about, and he also learns the meaning of life and humanity.
I’m not a fan of the zombie genre – or the post-apocalyptic or dystopian genres either – but this was a really good book. It’s not just a zombie slasher novel, though there’s plenty of that; Maberry looks into the emotions and mind sets of people living years in survival mode and the morality of killing zombies who once were people, too. It’s a story of loss and fear and, ultimately, courage. Maberry also asks the question: Who’s the real monster, the zombies who kill mindlessly or men who are capable of reason and still do awful things?
I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good zombie book or movie. I’d also recommend it to fans of The Hunger Games – those who dug into the story of a world-gone-wrong and a teenager’s fight to make it a better place. I’ll close with a quote that epitomizes both Katniss’ journey in The Hunger Games and Benny’s here:
“Often it was the most unlikely people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably always there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.”