December 10, 2010

Book Review: Rot & Ruin

Title: Rot & Ruin
Author: Jonathan Maberry

From Goodread
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.
My Review
I loved this book! Ok all my students know that  love zombie books (they also know I have dreams about zombies!), so deciding to read this book was a no brainer (hee hee - zombie joke) I'm use to the typical zombie book that is focused on the life of zombies, being chased by zombies, and dealing with zombies in the world.  This one dealt with that, but really that wasn't what it was about. It was about so much more.

At it's core I think this book was about the love of family and how fear keeps us from doing things.  Benny and Tom have a very tense relationship filled with anger and misunderstanding.  It isn't until he starts to see what Tom does that their relationship changes.  Watching Benny grow and mature and learn was amazing.  I loved seeing who he became.  And what I really liked was that this just happen to take place in the midst of zombies!  The zombies weren't the focus; Benny's future was.  Not the typical conflict in a zombie book about someone,s future (will the zombie get them), but more what kind of man will he be.  Will he learn from Tom or stay on the path he is?  That question is the one that kept me reading.

Also within this world of zombie was also the theme of fear and what it does to us.  Over and over the book looks at people frozen by fear unable to move forward and change the situation they are in.  Benny and his friend Nix see what could be done to reclaim the world from the zombies, but they see that people are too scared to try.  They see that fear can keep us someplace we don't want to be, that sometimes we'd rather just live in denial.  Along with that is the idea of compassion within fear.  How do remain compassionate when fear driving everything you do? This is a theme that could've been in any story, but Maberry chose to use zombies.  It was a great backdrop for looking at this theme. 

Now don't get me wrong - there is also plenty of zombie attacks and fights.  They were tense and had me holding my breath a lot.  The book is filled with episode like that.  It just adds to the understanding of how fearful these people are and why. 

Final Thought:  Not your typical zombie book and that's a good thing
Best Stick-with-you Image:  The valley with thousands of zombies
Best for readers who: Like action but also a great theme
Best for ages: 13+


  1. The Zombie world is one that leaves me blah. After reading the wonderfully written yet horribly depressing Forest of Hands and Teeth I have not read another zombie book. I do love the fact that this has such a great theme though and enjoyed your review.

  2. Thanks for the excellent and insightful review.

    A lot of people have been saying that ROT & RUIN is the 'zombie book for people who don't like zombie books'. I suppose that's true because like more good monster books the book isn't about the monsters. It sounds like a contradiction, but isn't. Monster books --with the exception of vampire fiction--are best when they concentrate on the crisis that's shared by the human characters rather than on the weirdness of the monster. Stories about people in crisis is the basis for all drama, and has been since the Epic of Gilgamesh.

    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)


  3. thank you. I keep picking this one up at the bookstore, then putting it back. Next time I'll get it.

  4. I have this one on hold at the library. It sounds so great! :)

  5. Great review! I'm dying to read this book. It's on my Christmas list, not so much because it's a zombie book, which I love, but because a blurb compared it to Forest of Hands and Teeth and Cather in the Rye, two of my favorite books.

  6. Jonathan thanks for visiting! Sooooo excited to hear the seqeul news! Can. Not. Wait!

  7. Great review! I love the follow up comments from the author as well - interesting insights.

    I am not normally a zombie kind of gal - however, your review makes me want to check this out! I love when a deeper theme runs throughout a book. Sounds like a winner.

    PS. I loved your little joke about the "no brainer." I have the sense of humor of the students I teach for sure!