Thursday, September 27, 2012

A fantastic YA read: Rot & Ruin

When I went into reading Rot & Ruin I did not expect to find it so engrossing. I’ve only read one other zombie book, Outpost, and liked it, but that one was a totally different look at the zombie lore. In Rot & Ruin zombies act like expected, but apart from that, the author doesn’t present his zombie story like others. Instead, he takes it from a very human angle, following the lives of Benny, his brother and friends. We get down to how life is for Benny, what it is like to live in a time where the old conventions of the world are no longer viable. In school, amongst their studies they learn how to handle zombies. When they reach 15 they have to start working so they can keep their rations. Because they live in an enclosed town, where it is supposedly safe from zombies, he has only a limited choice of jobs he can pick from, of which most he considers boring. So, in the end he ends up becoming an apprentice to his half-brother Tom, who is a bounty hunter (a closure specialist to be precise). At the beginning of the book Benny will annoy you, because he acts like a selfish teenager that unjustly blames his brother for things. He admires the wrong kinds of people, two other nasty bounty hunters, when he should be admiring, instead of hating, his brother. But as the story proceeds events happen one after the other and his affected and preconceived notions about how things are starts to be questioned, then falls completely away.

What I loved about this book was the way the author didn’t make the zombies out to be the real villains. The zombies act on instinct, they have no hate in them, just need, you can’t judge them on a human level, because they are no longer human and are basically animals that don’t know any better. But the bounty hunters (apart from Tom) are the real villains. They know what they are doing, are supposedly with feelings, yet they do the vilest things: like preying on the zombies and young children for their own amusement. They’ve created a Gameland where they barter money to see which children can survive in a pit (and other scenarios) against zombies. They also hack at zombies for their own amusement, playing with them, and forgetting they were once people, people that were loved. This is Tom’s view of zombies, which is why he’s a closure specialist. He gets contracts from families to go put their loved ones (who have become zombies) to rest in a humane manner.

Because of what the bad bounty hunters do they have made enemies not only with Tom, but a girl who roams the wilderness. When the worst of the bounty hunters attack people that Tom and Benny love, taking one of them, the brothers go looking for her (Nix, and Benny’s love interest). Along the way the lost girl joins them, leading to an explosive climax. And the epilogue is so perfect, really moving.

This is just a fantastic novel, well worth your time reading. I’ve been told that this book and its sequels are being turned into movies, which I would absolutely love to see.

5 very well deserved stars. I highly recommend Rot & Ruin.  

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