Author: Jonathan Maberry
Genre: YA post-apocalyptic with zombies
Pages: Hardback, 458
Opening Lines: ":Benny Imura couldn't hold a job, so he took to killing."
"In the zombie-infested world Benny has grown up in, teenagers must work once they turn fifteen—or they;ll lose their food rations. Benny isn't interested in taking on the family business, but he reluctantly agrees to train as a zombie killer with his older boring big brother, Tom. He expects a dull job, whacking zombies for cash. What he discovers is a vocation that will teach him what it really means to be human.
"As his worldview is challenged again and again by the lessons he learns from Tom, Benny is forced to confront another horrifying reality: Sometimes the most terrible monsters are humans."
Thoughts: I honestly had no idea what to expect going into this book. At some level, I anticipated the traditional zombie-apocalypse with teenagers as the central characters. However, this book really teaches valuable life lessons and forces the reader to take a closer look at society.
Wanting to find the easiest and most entertaining job they can, Benny and Chong, his best friend, start trying out jobs they find listed in the help-wanted pages. After Chong finds his dream vocation up on the watch towers, Benny is left struggling to find something before his rations run out. Even though he hates his brother and thinks of him as a coward, Benny decides that becoming Tom's apprentice is the only option. Expecting a boring job of killing masses of undead for bounty money, Benny is faced with the horrible truth behind human nature in the Rot and Ruin—where there are no rules and those strong enough will take what they want . . . By any means necessary.
From start to finish, this book was engaging! Even though I understand Benny's feelings towards Tom, I couldn't fully understand why he felt zombie killing would be a boring job. After all, he loved to spend hours at a time listening to Charlie Pink-Eye and The Hammer talk about their zombie killing adventures. Using that as a judge, it was surprising to be how insistent he was on the boring nature of the job.
I felt that Maberry did a wonderful job fleshing out the characters as well as the surroundings. To me, the Rot and Ruin was as much a character as the people. Each deserted town, Lilah's cave, etc. had it's own personality. Further, even though the zombies were a vehicle for the plot, he manages to make them characters in his own right.
Maberry put a lot of thought and time into this work. He uses it to address deep issues of true human nature and the nature of evil. He questions whether zombies can really be called bad a or evil since they lack any awareness. They are driven by an insane hunger they cannot control, and, from all outward appearances, seem to have no brain function outside of this insatiable hunger for human flesh. Therefore, they cannot be blamed for their actions and those actions cannot be seen as malicious. The people, however, choose to torture zombies, throw lost children into pits with zombies for entertainment, and so on. Tom challenges Benny to look at the true monster in society.
The concept of the zombie being the "noble-savage" reminds me a great deal of The Last Man On Earth. What makes us human? What separates us from the animals? What keeps our baser instincts in check? This book was amazingly deep, engaging, and well extremely well written.
Currently: Zombies Don't Cry by Rusty Fischer
Current Pages: 3246