Rot and Ruin is the first book in the Benny Imura book series by Jonathan Maberry. This is pretty much my first zombie book. I mean, there are zombies in the Anita Blake books. She's an animator and animators raise zombies. But this is my first zombiepocalypse book. (Is that a word? Well, now it is.) Jonathan Maberry has created a world in Rot & Ruin that I would never want to live in. Zombies have taken over the world and anyone who dies must be "quieted" or they too will become the living dead. Benny and Tom Imura live in this world, in the little fence-enclosed town of Mountainside.
Benny Imura is a boy of almost fifteen who must find a job or his rations will be cut. He tries so many jobs but can't seem to find one that works. Finally, in an act of desperation, he agrees to let his eldest brother, Tom, teach him "the family business". Tom is a bounty hunter, or so Benny thinks. Bounty hunters get paid by the living to kill their family members or loved ones who have turned into zombies. He sees himself as a "closure specialist". He doesn't make tons of money like the less scrupulous bounty hunters do and the job takes its toll on him, emotionally. But all Benny sees is the coward who left their mom for dead when their dad went zombie on First Night.
On Benny's first trip out into the Rot and Ruin, the land outside of Mountainside's fences, Tom imparts the first of many valuable truths. Zombies are not monsters, they are not evil and they did not choose this fate. It takes some time for Benny to accept and learn the things that Tom has to teach him but he slowly does. Then, something terrible happens to those closest to the Imura brothers and they have to go out into the Ruin on a suicide mission. Benny has only a wooden sword and hasn't even trained with a real sword or gun yet but time is slipping away as the two brothers leave Mountainside. Will they save Benny's friend or will they die trying? Is the Lost Girl real or simply a ghost story?
This book was insane. I expected it to be more... zombie-ish? I guess. But really the story is about so much more than zombies. The zombiepocolypse is the vehicle for the larger life lessons. It's about doing what is right, even when it is not easy. It's a story of good vs evil. It's about life and death. It's about seeing the world for what it truly is and choosing to see only what you want to see. Tom has so much wisdom to impart- and not just about zombies. I highly recommend this book for teens and adult readers. The messages and violence are just too much for younger readers.
Rot & Ruin earns 5 Fairies for being a surprising book about zombies.