Rot & Ruin--Jonathan Maberry

Well, I must say this book completely blindsided me.

I have to state for the record that I am NOT a fan of Zombies--movies, mash-ups, novels, anything.  There are the isolated here and there things I either like or admire--Night of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, etc.  But in general (and I'm sharing a deep dark secret here) of all the inventions of the supernatural through time zombies freak me out beyond the ability to express it in coherent speech (witness this sentence).

So, my brother loves zombie books, he recommends a few.  Among them this one.  I say, "Yeah, Yeah.  Manana."  Then my son says, "Oh yeah, I have that book, it was really good."  How alarming.  He has read it and enjoyed it.  He left it with me, along with a couple of other books I didn't know we had in the house.

I picked it up and started reading.  And found that I couldn't put it down.  Zombies play a huge role in this book.  The things that happen couldn't happen without them.  And yet, somehow, the novel isn't really about zombies. It is a YA book.  It has the structures and concerns of many YA books.  And it is a stand-out YA.

Brief overview: The zombie apocalypse (a favorite of zombie fans everywhere--nearly a sine qua non of the zombie chic) has occurred turning the vast majority of the United States into small zones of the living sandwiched between large tracts of the Rot and Ruin of the title.  Benny is the brother of one of the great zombie bounty hunters Tom, who he regards, for a variety of reasons as a coward.  Benny is much more taken by his heroes Motor City Hammer and Pink-Eye Charlie.  Benny needs to get a job by the end of the summer to continue on full rations and after trying out a number of possibilities finally approaches his brother for a position as apprentice. After the first experience in this apprenticeship Benny finds his world turned upside down.  A little later it is turned upside down again when someone attacks his best friends. 

Maberry's theme in the book is the meaning and importance of family and how family members work together, fight with each other, resolve conflicts, and interact with others.  Zombies prowl, bad things happen, people fight zombies, and we all learn that in most cases, other people, who act with a discernable will are often much more awful than the zombies whose actions are dictated by nature.

The intelligent teen or adult who encounters this book will find a wonderfully written story that explores the limits of human compassion and what compassion means and what compassion costs.

Looks like I'll need to queue up for Dust & Decay.

Highly recommended *****


  1. What a wonderfully insightful review. So glad you enjoyed ROT & RUIN.

    There are thirteen pages of free prequel scenes for ROT & RUIN available on the Simon & Schuster webpage for the book. Here’s a link to the main page; access the scenes by clicking on the banner that reads: READ BONUS MATERIAL BY JONATHAN MABERRY:

    Benny Imura and his friends will return in DUST & DECAY (summer, 2011) and at least two more books beyond that (FLESH & BONE and FIRE & ASH).


  2. Dear Mr. Maberry,

    Thank you for commenting. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. So is my son.




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