Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Review: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
When 15-year-old Benny Imura begins to apprentice with his brother Tom in the art of zombie hunting, he has no idea what he’s in for. Before his apprenticeship, Benny only knew that zombies were the disgusting, brainless creatures that infected his parents all those years ago, when zombies eventually took over much of the land, and so they deserve to die. Instead, Tom teaches him a more compassionate way of viewing zoms, and Benny begins to learn that the real monsters might not be zoms, but rather other humans.
ROT & RUIN, acclaimed horror novelist Jonathan Maberry’s first venture into literature for younger readers, is so much more than simply a zombie book. It blends great storytelling, adventure, and tender human moments for an altogether satisfying read that is both exciting and emotional.
Benny starts off as a pretty irritating boy, smugly confident in his narrow-minded convictions, but it is the mark of a great author that Benny eventually grew into a mature and more complex young man, a protagonist that I could really get behind. His interactions with Tom are tense with residual anger over the loss of his parents on First Night—a little childish, perhaps, but alright, believable if we cut him some slack. Other than his relationship with Tom, Benny is a pitch-perfect teenage boy regarding his interactions with others: friends, other grown-ups, zombies, etc., a relatable mix of cluelessness, anxiety, and bravado.
The world of Mountainside and the Rot and Ruin is a well-realized one, with plenty of opportunities for secrets, hideaways, and dramatic showdowns. All that Benny knew used to be only what was within the fence that surrounds Mountainside, but as his apprenticeship takes him far out into the Rot and Ruin with his brother, his worldview grows, and with that opportunities for more exciting things to happen. Maberry has brilliantly constructed a world that will never feel too claustrophobic for ideas: there will always be more things for Benny and his friends to discover out there.
And can I just mention how awesome it is that Benny is half-Japanese, half-Irish…and it’s not a big freaking deal? Get out your lassos so you can get me down from where I’m floating over the moon!
ROT & RUIN is not flawless: Tom comes off as a bit too perfect, and there are some epic monologues in there that couldn’t hide the fact that they were pushing an agenda. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the heck out of my time spent reading this book, and may even dare say that this book will probably appeal to younger fans of The Hunger Games, those who are craving another thrilling yet firmly humanistic series.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - That is one scary close-up of an eye. I do like the translucency of the title font, though. It is pretty memorable.
Simon & Schuster / Sept. 14, 2010 / Hardcover / 458pp. / $17.99
ARC received at BEA; read for Cybils.