Author: Jonathan Maberry
Title: Dust & Decay
Series: Benny Imura (#3)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers (January 1st 2011)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Six months have passed since the terrifying battle with Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer in the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot & Ruin. It’s also six months since Benny Imura and Nix Riley saw something in the air that changed their lives. Now, after months of rigorous training with Benny’s zombie-hunter brother Tom, Benny and Nix are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future. Lilah the Lost Girl and Benny’s best friend Lou Chong are going with them. Sounds easy. Sounds wonderful. Except that everything that can go wrong does. Before they can even leave there is a shocking zombie attack in town. But as soon as they step into the Rot & Ruin they are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, insane murderers and the horrors of Gameland –where teenagers are forced to fight for their lives in the zombie pits. Worst of all…could the evil Charlie Pink-eye still be alive?
In the great Rot & Ruin everything wants to kill you. Everything…and not everyone in Benny’s small band of travelers will make it out alive” GoodReads’ blurb
Once more, I thought this would be a four-star worthy book. Once more, the raw emotion I felt made me push it to five. It also made me pushing back the writing of the review until I could actually do it without feeling torn apart anew, which is pretty impressive in my book.
But let’s talk about Mr. Maberry’s book now.
After the events on Rot & Ruin and Land of the Dead, Dust & Decay picks up without bothering to ever slow down. As per usual, the things I loved the most here were the relationships: they were so real. When the leave, things aren’t just pack-up-and-go: there’s emotional baggage, on their end and on the end of those left behind. Because of that, it’s easy to believe that Tom would push the trip’s date, that he’d take Chong with them for a little stretch of their trek.
I wanted to strangle Chong, and at the same time I loved him: he’s books smart. He’s trained with Benny and Nix and he’s in love with the Lost Girl, which should qualify him to be at least a little warrior smart too... but the fact is that it’s not his life and he can’t adjust to it. The author resisted the temptation of making him as good as the others, which was great.
The not so great part came when the real plot got kicked into motion. I despise characters who make stupid choices, and I hate to have someone being so childish that their own self-pity turns into a total lack of common sense. That’s what happened here: a really, really stupid choice for reasons I could not sympathize with no matter how hard I tried, and consequences that started looking a lot like book one: one missing person, one chasing team across the Rot & Ruin.
Then things change. I don’t want to lie: everything that happens, happens because someone has been a little kid in a world where childhood has no real place anymore, much less childishness. But the results are greater than anticipated. It’s more than just chasing and surviving or dying. It’s about being a hero. It’s about being a true leader. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about never giving up. It’s about love and trust and trauma and healing. It’s about zombies, but also about true monsters—the ones who wear human skin.
It’s not perfect, of course. I appreciate the symbolism, but I could have done with less confrontation and more answers to the questions. Because behind all that action, the Rot & Ruin is changing, the zombies are changing and no one understands how or why, or what that means. I’d have loved to explore that more deeply, and perhaps that’d have left theheart-wrenching ending out.
When I said above that I had to wait to write this review, I meant it: I literally had to wait or become a crying mess. And you should read this book to experience that depth of feeling for yourself. To paraphrase my beloved Tom Imura—the one fictional character who has truly ruined all other average men for me—I’ll just say:
You must read this book. That is the law.