Category: jonathan_maberry


Apparently, my month of “dystopias and dead things” could have also been titled “a month of sequels.”  99 Coffins, Crossed, and now Dust & Decay are my reviewed books for the month, and all are the second book in their respective series.

Enough about that, though, right?  You’re here to read about Dust & Decay, the second book in the Benny Imura series by Jonathan Maberry.  (I’ve previously reviewed Rot & Ruin, the first in the series.)

Statistics
Checkouts: Soon to be added to the library collection; bought at Snowbound Books
Series checkouts: 1
Typical reader: People who enjoyed Rot & Ruin

Synopsis: Six months have passed since the events of Rot & Ruin.  Benny, Nix and their friends have been training with Benny’s brother Tom for months, and are anxious to go east and try to find the airplane they saw flying.  A bit earlier than intended, Tom sets out with Benny, Nix, Lilah the legendary Lost Girl, and Lou Chong on what was supposed to be an overnight camping trip for Chong and the beginning of a journey for the rest.  Things do not go as planned.  At all.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

This sequel does not spend as much time in the town of Mountainside as its predecessor.  This time, while we do get to see a bit of relaxing times for the group with apple pies and romantic concerns, the action heats up quickly, with a zombie attack in town.  After that’s dealt with, Tom moves the departure date for the trip up.  Chong tags along with permission from his parents for just one night.  They’ll go to Brother David’s way station, spend the night, send Chong home, and continue on their merry way.

But then a rhinoceros foils their plans.  That’s right.  A rhinoceros.  Yes, it makes sense in that animals have escaped from the San Diego Zoo, circuses, and other such venues.  Yes, it’s something that the group really was not expecting, and it’s a good way to throw everything off.  But, um, wow.  A rhinoceros.  That messed with my suspension of disbelief far more than, you know, zombies do.

That’s really my only quibble with the book, though!  The pacing is excellent, the action is awesome, and the characters are incredible.  Every review I’ve seen of this book talks about some new bounty hunter the reader gets to meet in Dust & Decay, and for good reason.  There are a quirky, dynamic bunch of people that live out in the wild of post-zompacalypse America.  Personally, I loved the Greenman.  He reminded me a lot of Tom Bombadil from The Lord of the Rings.  You’ll also come across some really nasty bad guys who have it out for Benny, his brother, and his friends.

Interspersed with the narrative are excerpts from Nix’s journal.  These are really a nice addition, adding both general information and a good bit of depth to her character.  I particularly liked how honest her writing was about her feelings about Benny.  “… Benny and I are never going back home.  We may not meet other kids our age.  Do I want to be with him because we don’t have a choice or because that was our choice?” (page 247, hardcover edition)  This sort of thing made Benny and Nix’s relationship far more believable than nearly anything you’ll read in any romance novel.  Massive kudos, Mr. Maberry.

My reviews always aim to be spoiler-free, but I will give you two little vague tidbits about the outcome of this novel.  One, the end battle is epic!  Two, I cried by the end of the book.

If you enjoyed Rot & Ruin, don’t miss this.

I love young adult literature.  I’m not sure I can quantify why it attracts me so much, but I’ve enjoyed reading it, taking library science classes about it, reading reviews about it, seeking out the award winners and the yet-undiscovered gems.  Maybe it’s because it’s so accessible, yet unafraid to touch on deep topics.  Whatever the reason, I like to read books from all over this age group.

Except romance novels.  I can’t stand those at any level.  If you want some good YA romance reviews, please visit my friend Michelle’s book review blog, Never Gonna Grow Up!  They’re much more her cup of tea.

Anyway.  Here is a review of Jonathan Maberry’s book Rot & Ruin, the first in the Benny Imura series.

Statistics
Checkouts: Not owned by the school
Typical reader: Aimed at teens and zombie-apocalypse fans

Synopsis: Faced with needing a job at the age of 15 or losing half his food rations, Benny Imura becomes his older brother’s apprentice as a zombie bounty hunter or “closure specialist.”  In this post-apocalyptic world where “zoms” prowl outside the town walls, Benny learns much about the older brother he’s always seen as a coward, the bounty hunters he admires, the world outside the walls that most refuse to discuss, and the true nature of zombies and humans alike.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

These zombies eat more time than brains.

I used to be afraid of zombies.  I avoided media related to them in all forms.  And then I started dating a horror and zombie fan.  Slowly, I was introduced to the genre, first with the oddly cute movie “Fido,” where zombies are dangerous pets/slaves of sorts in a post-apocalyptic yet retro-1950s community.  I’ve worked my way up to playing stupid Zacebook applications like “Zombie Lane” and watching the classic George Romero films, most recently “Night of the Living Dead.”  To understand the monster is to dispel fear.

My experience actually mirrors Benny’s somewhat.  At the beginning of the book, he hated and feared zombies.  He could remember First Night, the time when the initial zombie outbreak occurred and humanity all but lost the war.  Though he was a toddler at the time, he had vivid memories of what happened to his parents – and how his brother Tom had run away with him.  Thirteen years later, he’s looking for a job and does not want to work for his detested older sibling, who hunts zombies.  After none of the other jobs in town suit him, Benny accepts his fate and joins Tom in the great Rot & Ruin that used to be America, learning Tom’s trade.

And man, does he learn a lot.  Tom teaches him survival skills and the ways of zombies.  These zombies are admittedly less frightening than one might expect, considering they cannot open doors.  As Tom shows his kid brother, they are also very recognizably things that used to be people – they used to be someone’s loved one.  Tom isn’t like the other bounty hunters who brag at the town store about their grandiose battles against the zombie hoards; he brings closure to the former loved ones of the townsfolk, reading them letters from his employers as the zombie sits tied up in its home, then quickly finishing them off humanely.  While zombies are certainly dangerous, Benny learns how to be smartly cautious and wary rather than fearful.  It’s important to know one’s enemy.

Then the book heats up, with intrigue, murder and kidnappings, legends and love, and doesn’t stop until the quiet epilogue that made me a bit misty-eyed.  There’s good reason why I finished this book in two days – and it would have been less time if not for those silly necessities like sleep and work.  The novel is a real page-turner, and the 458 pages in the hardcover edition just flew by.

The prose and plot are excellent.  The delivery is superb, with phenomenal pacing and the right amount of hints that allow an alert reader to predict what’s coming, without seeming either forced or too predictable.  Granted, a bit of hope doesn’t hurt, especially when things are looking really bleak for our heroes.

The character development is everything you could want in a coming-of-age story, as Benny learns about everyone around him.  Not one lead or supporting role is left flat; everyone from Benny to his friends, from the wickedly cool bounty hunters to the town sketch artist, has depth to their story.  And certainly, not everyone is as they seemed when Benny was young and naive.

For as dark as this book can be, I did find some humor in it.  The adventures in job hunting and the personalities the bounty hunters showed while telling their yarns in the general store were lighthearted.  And calling nomadic zombies “noms”?  That cracked me up.  Zoms and noms!

Overall, this is a fabulous book that I could easily recommend to any zombie-lover or teen looking for an adventurous novel (and who isn’t afraid of the massive size of this thing).  It’s not overly gory or vulgar, so even a mature middle school student might handle it.