Rot & Ruin
By Jonathan Maberry
Series: Benny Imura, Book 1
My Rating: 5 Stars
Rot & Ruin is the first book in Jonathan Maberry’s Benny Imura series. A young adult series which takes place 15 years after the zombie apocalypse. One might ask if these are connected in any way to Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, and the answer is yes, sort of in a round about way they are loosely related but they take place years apart. This is a very unique take on the zombie book which some may find a bit too introspective for their liking, but that’s ultimately what I loved about them. They are certainly a different breed of zombie book and come highly recommended.
When Benny Imura turns 15 he find and keep a job. If he doesn’t his rations will be reduced to half. Benny is willing to do anything except following in the family business. More specifically, Benny doesn’t want to have anything to do with his older brother Tom. But when Benny can’t find a job that fits him, he reluctantly agrees to be trained by Tom as a “Collection Specialist” otherwise known as a zombie killer. Benny is convinced this is going to be the most boring job in the world but what he discovers is that Tom is in fact, a very respected and feared killer in their part of Northern California. He finds that killing zombies isn’t as cut and dry as he thought it would be. Tom teaches him that sometimes zombies aren’t who you should fear the most but rather other humans. As Benny spends more time with Tom, he discovers that everything he believed was so off base and he learns what it truly means to be human in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse.
I haven’t read a ton of zombie books, but I’m going to say that no matter how many I read in the future this is going to be one of my favorites. This was absolutely not what I was expecting from a zombie book. Maberry has created an intricate and detailed post-apocalyptic world. The people who survived have setup new towns and created a new life for themselves. They have developed a method for surviving and contrary to how many books and movies portray the zombie apocalypse, they don’t spend all their time out killing zombies. In Maberry’s world, there is a specific kind of trained killer to do this job and that’s what it is; a job. But just like other professions, there are good zombie killers and bad ones. There are ethical ones and unethical ones. And that’s what this book comes down to: ethical and moral VS unethical and immoral.
Benny Imura was only a toddler when First Night happened and his memories are skewed. He’s formed opinions about the world around him and the people within his town without really knowing the history or details of the world or the people. He resents his brother without really knowing him or trying to know him. But when he starts to spend time with Tom, Benny discovers that life isn’t as black and white as he thought it was. I loved the innocence of Benny in this book. He transforms from being a petty teen to being a young man with a purpose. And that type of character development is amazing.
The other character I loved in this book was Tom Imura. In fact, I think I might have liked Tom more than Benny. He’s such a great character. He’s mysterious and complicated but gentle and kind in his own way. He doesn’t sugar coat life for Benny because he knows Benny is going to always have to fight for survival and it’s never going to be easy. He wants the best for Benny and is willing to train him so that he’s prepared. But there is so much more to Tom than how Benny sees him. You quickly learn that Tom is a complicated man. He has a past that is painful and troubling. You know that he was older when First Night happened and that he saved Benny but you only get the details of how Benny remembers it. By the time you get to the end of the book the truth is revealed and you can’t help but love Tom even more.
This was a great start to a series that is sure to be one of my all-time favorites. I can’t wait to read the other books and I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a book that is introspective, deep and complicated but still has the thrill of a zombie book or action book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.