Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Series Review: Benny Imura (Rot and Ruin) by Jonathan Maberry

Rot and Ruin (Benny Imura, #1)
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
September 14, 2012
Simon and Schuster
458 pages
Genre: Young Adult
(contains death, violence)
Source: Personal purchase
Rot and Ruin Book Blurb:
In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn't want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

Spoiler-Free Series Review:

I admit I'm not normally a zombie book reader. I only picked up these books because I liked the covers and a couple of friends kept telling me how good they were. I was in a bit of a reading slump, so I picked up Rot and Ruin. First, I loved Maberry's writing style. Then I immediately loved Benny Imura. Not because he was such a great kid. He wasn't. He was immature and unreasonably hated his brother. But I liked how real that was. I liked how misdirected he was. And I couldn't wait to see what kind of person he was going to become - good or bad or somewhere in between. The characters Maberry created, good and evil, were amazing and I was so impressed by the incredible way he developed them all. If you like good character development, then you'll be impressed.

Initially the zombie lore of the story wasn't a big deal. It felt pretty synonymous with any other zombie world out there. But then something happened that made everything different. Tom Imura happened. Tom, the philosophizing, zombie-quieting, apple-pie-baking, eternally-patient-with-little-brother samurai happened. Tom, the guy I'd want my sister or best single girlfriend to marry (because I'm already happily married). The way Jonathan Maberry used Tom and other characters in the books to bring humanity to the zombies, humanity to this post-apocalyptic world, was what really put this series in a whole other category for me. The deeper levels of this book were beautifully written and I commend Maberry for bringing these depths to a young adult series that primarily follows a male teenaged protagonist.

This series intermixes the ugly side of humanity with the kind. But let's be honest. There's a whole lot of ugly going on. There are nightmares worse than the zombies at times. Maberry explores many sides of humanity, ranging from peaceful non-violent monks to psychopathic murders to the apathetic and anything else in-between. There were many moments that were downright heartbreaking. But they are still explored in a way for a young adult or mature adult to both appreciate, to learn from. Not only do we see these horrors, but we also see how each character deals with them and their effects on them. Once again, Maberry does not tip-toe around the consequences of violence, both to the victim and the perpetrator, but explores it well.

I will not go into more specifics about the series because I want to remain spoiler-free, but if you are looking for something different and deeper, something darker but also flecked with hope and bouts of humor, something full of colorful characters that will make you laugh and cry, something that makes you think, something you'll want to sink your teeth in - than look no further and check out the Benny Imura series.

And it you'd like to read my review of the final book - Fire and Ash - you can find it here.

Book Links and Reading Order (click on cover):

Rot and Ruin (Benny Imura, #1)  Rot and Ruin (Book #1)
   Dust and Decay (Benny Imura, #2)  Dust and Decay (Book #2)
   Flesh and Bone (Benny Imura, #3)  Flesh and Bone (Book #3)
Fire and Ash (Benny Imura, #4)  Fire and Ash (Book #4)

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