Joe's Reviews > Rot and Ruin

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
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Jan 31, 12

Read in January, 2012

I make a point of reserving most of the YA novels I read for my other goodreads page, Mr.G. However, Rot & Ruin was so awesome I've got to tell you about it here.
I didn't think I would like this book. It had an especially slow first act. But by the end I was eager for its sequel.
Like most zombie novels, Rot & Ruin is really more about the people surviving the zombie apocalypse than the zombie horror itself. With Rot & Ruin this was especially true as the first third of the book is virtually devoid of zombies altogether. Author Jonathan Maberry imagines Mountainside, a 3,000+ community of survivors living somewhere in Central California about 12 years after the initial outbreak ("First Night.") These people have an impregnable fence surrounding their town and live almost oblivious to the millions of living dead that surround them and shun technology and other elements of the old world as much as possible. Only the especially brave and/or eccentric ever venture beyond the fence into the "Rot and Ruin." This seemed to me like an astute observation of how people often deal with the unthinkable and was terrifically believable to me.
I won't attempt a summary, but the main character Benny has a strained relationship with his older brother Tom, a much-respected bounty hunter who ventures regularly into the Rot and Ruin. Their parents died on First Night and Tom has been like a father ever since. Benny doesn't appreciate him until much later - a little a la To Kill a Mockingbird. Tom is Japanese (Benny is half) and uses a katana to great effect when putting down zombies.
So in sum, To Kill a Mockingbird meets a spaghetti western meets a Kurosawa film meets World War Z. Like I said, awesome.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Velvet (new)

Velvet This sounds awesome, Joe, I'm putting it on my list! People living inside of a fenced compound to keep away from zombies really reminds me of parts of The Passage. Have you read it?


message 2: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Awesome! Yeah, it is a lot like The Passage in a lot of respects. A lot of zombie books (and movies) focus on the drama and suspense of a zombie outbreak; The Passage and Rot & Ruin are more focused with the aftermath (Rot & Ruin is about 12 years after the outbreak) and its effect on people. If I remember, in The Passage, people are really living on the edge at the brink of extinction and have become really tough as a result.
R&R is really interesting because the author imagines the opposite effect: people are living in bland complacency behind their fence and try to live as if they are not surrounded by the living dead. It is sort of this pathological conflict avoidance. The main characters, who are teens, are driven crazy by this mentality and are eager to get out in the zombie wasteland and carve out new lives for themselves. This is kind of surprising in a zombie book, but actually struck me as extremely insightful because this is exactly how society is ignoring impending environmental and economic disasters.
R&R is also notable in that the zombies are presented very benignly. Yeah, they're deadly and scary, but the real horror of the novel is reserved for the people who are exploiting the chaos for their own gain. It really is a zombie novel as a western. Zombies are kind of like the harsh desert backdrop and the drama is reserved for the eccentric characters who would make their lives in it.


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