July 11, 2012

Review: Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry

Author: Jonathan Maberry
Title:  Rot & Ruin
Series: Benny Imura (#1)
ISBN: 9781442402324
Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers (September 14th 2010)

Buy your copy: Hardcover |Paperback | Kindle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

Acclaimed horror author Jonathan Maberry makes his young adult debut with this detail-rich depiction of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen, the dead have risen, and danger is always imminent.”
GoodReads’ blurb

There are zombie books I enjoy because they are fast, entertaining reads, like Hollowmen by Amanda Hocking. There are zombie-style books I enjoy because they are original, like The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (and I’m fully that technically speaking those are vampires, thank you very much). Finally, there are zombie books that provide all of the above wrapped in one nifty package and add deep character development and thought-provoking scenes about what it means to be human, such as Rot & Ruin.

And no, I’m not being influenced by having found a new book boyfriend in this one, not at all.

The world in this novel looks a lot like your average apocalyptic world, I guess. Zombies, or zoms, are everywhere. They can only be killed by damaging the brain, and since in the beginning no one figured this out, the war for mankind actually swelled their ranks. You could say they didn’t win; we lost. The situation leaves a small village or town or survivors living behind fences, scared of the past, trying very hard to ignore what lies outside. But things must come from the outside: supplies from scavenging, trade from other surviving outposts, news...

That’s where the hunters step in. They go out, kill the zoms and reclaim civilization, even if it looks like the people inside the fence want nothing to do with civilization anymore. Pretty heroic, right?

That’s what Benny Imura thinks, too. He loves the hunters, except for his brother-some people say Tom Imura is the best; others say he’s a coward. Benny has memories from First Night, from the moment everything went to Hell, and he’s inclined to agree with the coward crowd.

But is everything as it looks? When Benny runs out of options and needs to accept a job apprenticing with his own brother so that his rations aren’t cut in half, Tom takes him outside the fence, to the Rot & Ruin, to what once was and what has become. Nothing will ever be the same again for Benny, and it’s a safe bet to say that the readers won’t ever look at zombies the same way again. Some heroes are bound to fall from their pedestals, some relationships will be mended, Benny will figure out what the important things are... and he can only hope that it isn’t too late.

The best part is that we, as readers, will be making those discoveries along with Benny. We’ll see that hate and fear are entwined, rooted deeply in each other, and that we will lash out at what we fear, even while monsters wearing the skin of a sheep are crawling in our mist because it’s easier. We’ll find out that sometimes memory doesn’t serve; that we must know before we judge. We’ll learn the most important lesson: that if we don’t try to set things to rights, no one else will.

I truly loved this book. I won’t say it changed my view on zombies forever, because I started my zombie craze back in Christmas this year, but it has swiftly become my favorite. It had cute tender moments, happy moments, heart-wrenching moments... and it was so beautifully written.

I already grabbed the bonus, middle book material and rest assured, I’ll get started with Dust & Decay as soon as I possibly can. I think you should check this one out if you so much as suspect you might enjoy a zombie book... It’s such a must read! 

PS. You know, initially I gave four stars to this one. But two weeks have passed since I wrote the review and scheduled it to go live... and since then, I've been thinking about Rot & Ruin, dreaming of its characters, wondering about its sequel. I believe that level of engagement, even after the cover's been closed, means that I had to take the score up a notch! 


  1. Yes, yes, yes!! I'm so in love with this series. Honestly Maberry can do no wrong in my eyes - I've loved every book of his I've read. But this series does hold a bigger spot in my heart than his other stuff. I'm super happy that you loved this one, and can't wait for you to read Dust & Decay.

    You know, I could've swore I subscribed to you blog through e-mail, but now I see you don't have a way to do that. No wonder I've been missing out on your reviews!! That makes me sad.

    1. Amen to that! I don't usually read much in the way of thriller, and he says that's basically what he writes, but right now I'm having this compulsive desorder where I see Maberry's name and I click "buy". Most unhealthy, I tell you!

      Will talk to you soon about D&D!