Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

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Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Super-duper post-apocalyptic zombie novel in the style of a revenge Western. It's tense and exciting, full of action, and has a great cast of characters. It ticked all Bookbag's boxes and we loved it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0857070959

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It's been fourteen years since First Night and the zombie apocalypse. Those humans who survived the disease that created the undead live in pocket communities, fenced off from the horrors of the outside world. Resources are scarce and all citizens must find a job as soon as they turn fifteen, else their rations are cut in half. Benny Imura has just turned fifteen and so he needs work badly. He tries out as a locksmith, a fence technician, a portraitist and a carpet coat salesman. Nothing works out and so Benny has no option but the last resort - an apprenticeship in the family business of zombie hunting, under the tutelage of his older brother Tom.

This isn't what Benny wants. Tom is boring, not glamorous like the town's other, tall tale-telling, zombie hunters, and Benny hasn't forgiven him for running away on First Night. If it weren't for Tom's cowardice, Benny's parents might still be around. But there isn't a choice, and so Benny ventures out into the Rot & Ruin for his first assignment - and then he finds that nothing, nothing at all, is what he thought it to be...

Oh! I loved this book! And it came as quite a surprise that I did. I love a bit of post-apocalyptic fiction, but zombies - on trend as they are at the moment - aren't really my thing. I'm interested in the way society might organise itself after catastrophe, but I find a gorefest usually gets in the way of that. Rot & Ruin does have quite a bit of gore - and a great deal of fighting - but it isn't a gorefest. It's set up in the style of a revenge Western - Benny and Tom have wrongs to right and villains to vanquish in a desolate and dangerous environment. Behind this main plot line, the novel is also a picaresque for Benny, who must grow into a worthwhile person after seeing all his assumptions crumble to dust.

Benny himself is an utterly credible character - foolish and superficial to begin with, but as the book goes on he realises his potential. The villains are absolutely and shockingly awful people, but they're not cardboard cut-outs at all - and you can see how the catastrophe of First Night caused their descent into depravity. But the star of the show is Tom - the reluctant killer, martial arts master, and the person whose example could begin to forge a new and decent society. I think I fell just a little bit in love with him.

This one comes highly, highly recommended by The Bookbag.

My thanks to the good people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

Older children will also love The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Younger ones will love The Enemy by Charlie Higson. They might also enjoy the entirely different take on zombies in Generation Dead by Daniel Waters.

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