Penny's Reviews > Rot and Ruin

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
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May 10, 11

Read from October 02, 2010 to March 02, 2011

This is what I learned from reading Rot & Ruin:

1. Zombies iz people too. So they should be treated with respect, yo. (more about this later)

2. Books containing zombies can be really irritating and boring.

You see, I didn't know this was a possibility. I mean, it's zombies we're talking about here. How could zombies be boring? Turns out all you need to do is add a lame teenage romance and BAM! What really matters (ZOMBIES!) gets shoved onto the backburner in favor of the not-so-important (love story??? Who invited that guy? Alright, I'm out!).

It needs to be said: if I wanted a romance novel I'd waste my time reading the likes of Nicholas Sparks. And that would never happen. Ever. Besides, I picked up a zombie book because I wanted to read a zombie story. Horror, Violence, Decapitations--oh my!

Maberry's story has these things, but not enough to hold my interest. Most of the time we're being preached to by Tom Imura, Benny's older brother. See Tom Imura is a zombie slayer for hire. One of the best. You'd think a katana-wielding slayer extraordinaire would liven things up a bit. But no. No, he doesn't. He just waxes philosophical about how zombies are people too.

The treating-zombies-with-respect-by-not-killing-them-unless-you-have-to thing? Ruined this book. Basically the argument defending this school of thought goes a little like this:

Tom Imura: Pretend you're at a loved one's funeral and suddenly someone you don't know shows up and like defecates on your loved one's corpse. Wouldn't that anger you? Wouldn't that be disrespectful to your loved one and everyone who ever cared about them?

Me: HECK YEAH! Let me at that disgusting jerk!

Tom Imura: These zombies are other people's loved ones.

Me: I totally agree. So sad. :(
Go on.

Tom Imura: Okay, so when you go around decapitating random zombies who are in no way bothering you you're pretty much doing the same thing as that filthy stranger that took a massive dump on your love one's corpse.

Me:...

Tom Imura: So basically you should just leave all those walking corpses--you know, the ones that totally want to eat your face and make you a zombie--alone. Because if you don't that's the same is defecating on a dead body. Or something.

Me: *laughing hysterically* er...what??? I fail to see the connection. Your analogy is shoddy at best.

Tom Imura: No really, think about it. Zombies have feelings too, as do their loved ones who may or may not be alive after the zombie apocalypse happens. Just leave all those innocent flesh-eating zombies alone, k. Promise? Unless, of course, a family member of a specific zombie hires you to hunt down said zombie for the sole purpose of decapitating them.

Me: Uhhhh...no. If a zombie apocalypse happens I'm going to decapitate EVERY ZOMBIE I SEE. Wanna know why? Because I'm thoughtful. See, if I'm ever unfortunate enough to become a zombie I hope someone would be thoughtful enough to decapitate me and burn my remains to ash. As far as I'm concerned it would be incredibly disrespectful to do otherwise.

I certainly don't want to walk the earth for an indefinite amount of time, rotting away and eating other people. What if I end up being one of those naked zombies? No one wants to be a naked zombie. I'd rather be dead dead then be a naked zombie, or a zombie of any sort for that matter.

Also? Zombies carry disease. A freaking plague. Why wouldn't I want to stop that from spreading?

I have zero desire to finish Rot & Ruin despite the fact I've got only 25 pages to go. Like I said earlier, there is a laaaaaame teenage romance that pretty much hijacks the plot. I probably would just bite the bullet and finish the book if I hadn't had to force myself to get this far. So no, I can't do it Cap'n.

Jonathan Maberry is totally going be among the first to die when zombies attack. Mark my words.
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Reading Progress

10/02/2010 page 25
7.0% "The local walmart is already selling this little gem. Enjoying it so far." 1 comment
10/03/2010 page 79
22.0% "Benny's way too emotional [for a guy]. I know, that's pretty sexist of me. But I come from a family that isn't overly emotional, for the most part. And we're not touchy-feely either, so all this brotherly love and the non-stop hug-fests are weirding me out. But because I've never been through a zombie apocalypse I'm willing to give Benny, and his brother Tom, a break. For the time being."
10/19/2010 page 416
118.0% "Okay, so my edition of this book has something like 450+ pages, but that's beside the point. I'm not loving this book, which really is a shame because the concept isn't bad. It's the noobs easily pwning the seasoned veterans that I can't stand. Way to go Jonathon Maberry, you ruined a perfectly good zombie book by not allowing your MCs to struggle with anything."
11/30/2010 page 416
91.0% "Not caring about the characters. Might just abandon this book completely even though I'm so close to finishing. Like I said: couldn't care less."

Comments (showing 1-32 of 32) (32 new)

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Kat Kennedy Excellent! I hope you like this one!


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 03, 2011 08:18AM) (new)

This is weirding me out. I feel like I've read this, but it was a short story. Hold on....

Aha! It was "Family Business" in the anthology The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology. That whole anthology was really uneven. I see I didn't even bother to review.


message 3: by AH (new) - rated it 4 stars

AH Oh no! You didn't like this one...

Normally, I don't go looking for zombie books to read. I get grossed out by all that chewing on peoples' brains. I actually liked this book perhaps because of Tommy's stand on zombies. It was just had a different feel to it and I could see my 14 year old son reading it.

But that's me. I like my zombies in the background.


Lucy I liked it, but when you put it like that it makes Tom seem more insane than I thought he was. I didn't really agree with him. It's like being a vegetarian and saying you should let the rabid animals frolick in the undergrowth. I'm all for the World War Z approach of stomp them out.


message 5: by Miriam (new)

Miriam That is especially weird because Maberry already wrote one adult zombie book where it was all the standard shoot-em-before-they-bite-your-face-off action shtick.


message 6: by Meg (new)

Meg this review is made of win.


Carrie Oh, Penny...you have to finish it just to see how stupid the ending was!! I would LOVE to hear your reaction!


message 8: by Mathias (new)

Mathias I agree with "The whole treat-zombies-with-respect-by-not-killing-them-unless-you-have-to thing" Started reading this one but i just cant understand the logic in leaving them alive.


message 9: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Great review! Now I know which Zombie story I won't be picking up...


message 10: by Megan (new) - rated it 1 star

Megan Couldn't agree with you more! Zombie respect is one of the many things which killed this novel for me. Can't they be respectfully killed? Obviously what Charlie Pinkeye & crew did was wrong, but why on earth wouldn't people want to mercifully kill the zombies?? Take back their world?? Argh, this book was awful & it makes my head hurt :(


message 11: by Jason (new)

Jason Kurtz Penny... after the apocolypse, save me a little canned salmon. Great review...


message 12: by Nathan (last edited Sep 12, 2011 05:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nathan I disagree, and even aside from aesthetic preference I think you missed the point. First of all, Tom isn't saying the zombies shouldn't be killed, not even remotely. Read carefully, he's the one who often has to convince surviving family members to authorize him to kill the zombies. The difference with Tom is, while the other bounty hunters revel and wallow in all that Horror, Violence, and Decapitations that you glorify so much, Tom thinks that the bodies of dead people should be Quieted with respect and humanity. And he makes sure he's badass enough to be able to do it. You seem to have had as much trouble with this concept as Benny did while Tom was explaining it to him, though Benny at least got it eventually.

I would agree with you, though, that people looking for a stereotypical shallow blood-n-guts zombie book just like the thousands of others out there will likely find this book disappointing. It actually has substance and nuance, not to mention that dreaded element, philosophy. (This was intended with a smile) =)

I prefer zombie stories where the zombies aren't the main feature. It's been done a billion times, it's shallow and weak. Like the GN version of The Walking Dead, just read that and loved how the focus was on the people, the societies, the moralities, the changes wrought in culture and psyche -- not just the frekking zombies.

I didn't think they made nearly as much of a big deal about the "romance" element as you say it did, in fact it seemed to me a pretty minor element even toward the end where it was present. And the degree to which it was present makes sense -- how many 15-year-olds have you known who weren't mopey in love or pining after someone? And for sure, I don't recall any love-fest between the brothers... in fact, your saying this on top of everything else makes me wonder if you read some alternate version of the book than what I got. Benny loathed and despised Tom through most of the book!

I think your near miss of the main foundation of the book -- your mistakenly thinking that Tom's philosophy was that the zombies should not be killed -- skewed your perception of the book. I could see how, if you thought that, the book would be irritating and decreasingly interesting. But your review, while well-written overall, is therefore as flawed and mistaken as your understanding of Tom's philosophy. I'd suggest re-reading it, though really this might just be the time to give up, given your long struggle with it.


message 13: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Yes, Penny, it is ridiculous to expect to comprehend the philosophical foundations of a YA zombie novel without adequate intellectual grounding. This work is clearly a response to the recent papal encyclical Pacem in Terris, which itself can only be fully understood in its relation to prior elucidations of Catholic social thought such as Rerum Novarum. It is best to read these in the original Latin, but if that isn't possible for you I recommend beginning with An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I dunno, Nathan. I have only read the opening to this book, which was published as a short story, and I have some issues with the way Tom's philosophy was presented. His altruism is bolstered by some of the rankest caricatures I've seen in zombie fiction, and his affect was far too superior for a survivalist story. I get the push against the latent nihilism in all end of the world stories, but this pushed in the wrong direction for me. Hence, I didn't read the full novel. I'm glad you enjoyed this, but snarking that others should find what you did here is unfortunate.


Nathan Hm. I guess that did come off snarky, sorry about that. Other elements in my personal life were apparently creeping into words that were otherwise just tossed off the cuff. I apologize; I certainly don't mean to say that others should see the book the same way I do. My only point really was that, if the core assumption she was making is inaccurate due to a misread, then the review is unfortunately somewhat irrelevant.

I didn't get a superior affectation from Tom, really -- or rather, I didn't get any such affectation that wasn't so justified it was basically a given. Tom disliked the brutal abusive tyranny of Charlie and the other bounty hunters, their rapist mentality, sure... but it's hard to think of any healthy or even slightly normal outlook that wouldn't present as superior to that kind of human grime. And even that deeply negative element in the bounty hunters was ameliorated and moderated some by Charlie's speech in the rain.

Miriam, I'm not even sure how to respond to your post... unless you were merely being sarcastic, it seems you're taking it not only to the other extreme, but so far to the other extreme that you're coming back around to the first extreme again. Doesn't seem like it needs to be anywhere near that complicated; sure, a teenfic book doesn't have to be shallow and dumb, but it probably doesn't need deep academic analysis, either.

Once again, sorry for the snark.


message 16: by Penny (last edited Sep 12, 2011 07:17PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Penny Nathan, I appreciate your opinion and I'm glad you came back and clarified yourself.

While I do own this book and I could reread it, I probably won't. I'm sure I understood Tom's philosophy just fine. Like I said in my review he made it clear that he didn't think it was okay to kill zombies unless a member of his/her family asked you to do so. And, yeah, I'll admit that he was willing/able to kill zombies if a life was in danger, but that was his only exception.

Before anyone tries to accuse me of agreeing with Charlie's mentality, I just want to make myself clear: I didn't think the way Charlie went about doing things was fine. The chopping off of zombie limbs, the zombie games, all of that was despicable.

There is a middle ground, though, and that's where I stand. Like I said, were I ever to turn into a zombie I'd love it if someone was considerate enough to put me out of my misery, whether I was actively attacking them or not, whether my family asked them to or not. Also, zombies carry a plague, why wouldn't anyone want to rid the earth of them?

And yeah, maybe I do like my zombie books to be a bit more disgusting and action-packed, but that doesn't mean I love mindless violence. Zombie books should have substance otherwise there's just no point to reading them. Most zombie stories are littered with symbolism, have an underlying theme, serve as a vehicle to make a social or political point--death, the unknown familiar, overpopulation, fear of the unwashed masses, consumerism, exploitation of a lower class, and so on.

Rot & Ruin is not lacking in this area--it does have a theme--I just don't happen to agree with Jonathan Maberry's ideology, the point he's trying to make. Maberry failed to successfully sell me on the concept, the analogy is flawed to begin with. This book, this story, didn't work for me.

And it's not just my disappointment in the underlying theme that bothers me. Character development was pretty flimsy, at best. The only character I felt was fully fleshed out was The Lost Girl (or whatever her name is). Tom was also more complex, but was still lacking something. Benny was a cardboard cut-out stereotype of a 15-year-old boy. The red-head girl he liked? Had even less going for her. Neither character was interesting. And last but not least, the villains were laughably evil.

The romance was lame. I can't stand love stories wherein one character knows another character loves them before said character even figures it out for him/herself. It's even more obnoxious when the character is smug about it. I honestly wanted Benny to tell whats-her-face he didn't like her because she was so smug.

I have more I could complain about but I have better things to do, like read.

Nathan, like I said earlier, I do appreciate your opinion. I do understand where you're coming from and I wish I could agree with you. I did try to like Rot & Ruin, wanted to like it as it was recommend by a friend.

That said, Rot & Ruin bored me out of my ever-lovin' mind.


Jesslyn Great review - I agree with all your points 100%.


message 18: by Affably (new)

Affably Eh sorry I havent read the book but ill be sure to give the next zombie I see a hug since he is a person with feelings after all. I mean in the face of all that prejudice I know I would most certainly need a hug. :D


message 19: by Affably (new)

Affably Eh and Nathan your comment was extremely long and i respect for bothering to write that much.


message 20: by Gilliam (last edited Mar 22, 2012 09:39AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Gilliam Just reached chapter 13 and am not particularly inclined to proceed further. As you mentioned Penny, the foundation of Tom's philosophy is fatally flawed: in what warped world-view do the dead take precedence over the living? The walking dead are a disease vector, it's a simple as that; so while it might be "disrespectful" of someone to get their kicks out of carving your dead Aunt Betty into a pogo stick, allowing your dead Aunt Betty to run amok and possibly take a bite out of someone else's Aunt Betty, who is still very much alive and kicking, well, that's just criminal negligence.


Nathan I still disagree with all this easy glib dismissal. I don't have the book anymore, as I checked it out from the library (unless Penny wants to send me her unwanted copy), but even when I had it in hand and had just read it and came to post here, I didn't see any of the extremes being described here -- didn't see anything in Tom's philosophy that said the dead should take precedence over the living, for example.

My mother died a few years ago. I don't mention it to gain sympathy points, but to use a personal situation to give an example of what I'm saying. These dead (undead) people in the book are just that -- people. Someone's mother, someone's brother, someone's grandpa, etc. Just treating them pragmatically, as contaminated objects to be dealt with, leaves something to be desired. I can understand someone, knowing their mother's body is out there somewhere -- even animated by some horrific plague -- might want their mother's body to be dealt with in a respectful, loving manner if at all possible, rather than simply and methodically bashed and smashed on a hunting tour.

Even so, I don't recall Tom ever saying that the hunters who did their job in that way, the middle ground, were bad people, or that they shouldn't do that -- he even said that he understood where they were coming from. But he strove to act in an OTHER capacity, almost a sort of priest, performing last rites for the dead, for the benefit of the dead person and for their surviving families as well. He takes on extra danger because he knows how important it can be to surviving family to know that their goodbyes were read to the person, just in case there's some part of them still in there able to listen. Like finally getting a funeral, closure, resolution.

He still killed them. He still supported other hunters killing them. He just went a little further, provided a specialty service, because he knew it could be important. It's easy to dismiss all that, because it doesn't feed into the stereotypical zombie-action-thriller format, but really that's exactly what I liked about it: that consideration was given to something more human than just pragmatics and cold survival.


message 22: by Tammy K. (new)

Tammy K. Awesome Review. Love your humor. You put in a lot of effort into this review, Kudos.


message 23: by Emily (new) - rated it 1 star

Emily Exactly! Desperately wish I'd read your review before I dragged through this book.


Flamestar/Landon I completely disagree with this book review. I really enjoyed the subplot between Benny and Nix. What I think you fail to see is that it is not the main plot by any means. You fail to see the big picture. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, as well as the rest of the series.


Zinjah Your review is spot-on for me. I've had my fill of teenage romance being splashed all over my beloved paranormal genre. Had I known this was going to be so chock full of it, I'd have given it a miss.


message 26: by Beth (new)

Beth Barkley Well crap. I put this on my to-read list but after your review I think I'll take it off. Normally I wouldn't dismiss a book based on someone else's review, but you touched on some things that irritate me (the teenage romance butting into a zombie story, for one) so...pass.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

That's exactly where I gave up on this book, when the jerk brother is on about defecating on dead people. And like "look Benny I'm a better zombie killer, because I hug zombies, watch and learn". I was laughing and "wtf?".


message 28: by DJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

DJ Burton I loved this book (giving it a 5 star rating) but isn't Tom Imura supposed to be a cop? And eliminate the danger near his home?


James Li I'm not sure the people who like this review understand Tom's point of view. He does not think they should just let zombies live. If that were the case, he would have just thrown in with the priest and sisters who lived in the wasteland instead of being the silencer. His entire point of view is that the dead should be respected and they should be silenced in a way that truly allows the zombies to REST IN PEACE and allow them the dignity in death that anyone deserves. For that same reason, he and his brother finally silence their parents at the end of the novel.


message 30: by Nadia (new)

Nadia I laughed out loud at "Jonathan Maberry is totally going be among the first to die when zombies attack. Mark my words." :D


message 31: by Aaron (new) - rated it 1 star

Aaron This book was sooooooo bad i dont even know why i read the second. Its so stupid and boring where did the names come from charlie pink eye whatttttt!!!!!!!!!!!! And who the heck cares about some girl on a card. I just wasited my time reading this peice of crap.


Morgan Oats Great review. Agree completely. I do think you should finish it just for the last hoorah! It's not really a good book, and the premise is absolutely terrible, but if you've gotten that far just finish it up


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