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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rot & Ruin Book Review and Contest

Todd Jepperson

Remember that first summer job? The one that was the greatest job on earth until you showed up and actually had to work? Benny Imura does. In the town of Mountainside, where Benny is growing up, when you turn 15 you get a job; or you try to get by on half of what you need to survive. The community is trying to rebuild after the Zombie Apocalypse, and every able-bodied member of society must contribute.

Benny and his buddy, Chong do what I would’ve done at 15 if I had to find a job; they open the newspaper and cut out want ads. They order them from highest “cool factor” to lowest, and get to work. Along the way, they try their hands at just about everything you can imagine; locksmith, fence tester, fence technician, carpet coat salesman, pit thrower, crank generator repair… the list goes on. In Mountainside, there are a lot of jobs which need doing, and a lot of them could get you killed or infected; so it takes time to find the right one

Benny’s stepbrother Tom is the envy of Mountainside. He’s a bounty hunter. Neighbors pay him to risk his life out in the vast spaces of what used to be the United States to “quiet” their loved ones. Benny doesn’t understand what the big deal is about Tom. He thinks Tom’s a coward. His earliest memory in life is of Tom running away while his parents are chewed on like peppered jerky in the house he used to live in, before everything went to hell. Of course, he wasn’t quite two years old then; but still he remembers. To him, the real heroes are guys like Charlie Matthias and the Motor City hammer. Those dudes are rough and ready with stories to tell about their adventures outside the fences. They’re all about dirt, scars and money. They’re the cool ones; not Tom. When he’s all out of options; though, it’s take over the family business, or starve. He begrudgingly resigns himself do whatever Tom does out in the great Rot and Ruin; he’ll smash a zombie and take home some cash.

Once there, Benny gets a taste of what the world is really like. He finds that there are people who would rather live with the undead than the living; because they feel safer that way. He finds out about a special little piece of hell called Gameland where horrible people take kidnapped children from the scattered remnants of society and make them fight to the death against zombies for fun. He learns about the savage “Lost Girl” who’s lived outside civilization her whole life, and he learns who Tom really is; and why he is the town hero.

Benny Imura is a believable kid who I found myself growing attached to. He just can’t bring himself to admit that since his friend Phoenix, (“Nix”) has grown up a little; He’s really started to like her. He tells himself dating her would be like dating Chong just to keep a cool head. He wants only to collect zombie cards, and daydream with his buddies, Chong and Morgie, about adventuring together outside the city gates. When Nix gets into trouble; however, all of that goes out the window. Benny and Tom set out to fight monsters, real monsters, and do a lot of that coming of age stuff along the way. It’s not about the end of our world, it’s about the beginning of theirs.

Before I tell you what made me like this book, I have to come clean. This is the eighth piece I’ve read by Maberry. If I had a favorite author, it would be this dude. It’s gonna get all fan-girl gushy, and you’re gonna have to read his work on your own to find out if I’m right. That being said, I don’t get paid to make it sound good. It just is.

My favorite thing about his writing is the way Maberry makes you feel what it’s like to get into a struggle for your life. He has black belts and years of martial arts training he can’t help but to put on paper. I’ll try to stop oozing after this; but, Jonathan Maberry’s fight scenes are the best I’ve ever read. You won’t find any flying, sparkling, pretty boys in a dance battle here. There are no fireballs, no smoke and mirrors, and no fluff. You have monsters being shredded, and people being shot, stabbed and sliced into a bloody mess. Main characters can take a hit just like anybody else. If they get cut, they bleed. If they bleed too much, they die.

Another thing that I love is how it feels like Jonathan Maberry is really in the business of telling stories. He doesn’t fill pages and pages with wordy explanations or descriptions of simple things. A blue sky is a blue sky. We’ve all seen it, and we don’t have to be told exactly what each cloud looks like. His stories are direct, fast paced, and plot driven. There is a setting, conflict, rising action, climax, and resolution; and he gets it done in less than 500 pages.

As A zombie nut, I loved the new insight he’s given me on my favorite monster. The reason he can write so clearly is this guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s done his homework and studied this stuff more than I care to imagine. You can tell from his writing that he has considered every possible angle he could come from, and chosen the best one. I like my zombies single-minded. I don’t like zombies that talk, think, or create. Zombies are a base instinct driven natural disaster with no mind for self-preservation or purpose. Maberry’s zombies are exactly what I want to see. They’re a plague. They don’t act; they react. They are the ultimate freakin’ horror machine.

That brings me to my disclaimers: Although this is a YA novel, I happen to know from the author, that this wasn’t written specifically to target the genre. The original story was written in a darker short form and called Family Business. That being said, this book has realistic violence and gore. It also has a little bit of language laced in here and there, and there is the occasional suggestive theme. I’d say this is probably a mid-teen level book. I plan to read it to my son way before then, but I’ll have to do some on the fly editing when I do.

So, who wants a free book? Just as you’ve come to expect, entering the contest is easy. Send an email, with your name and address, to We’re gonna leave this contest open through the end of next month. If your number comes up, we’ll let you know via email and glittery contest update here on Z&T.

If you’ve read this far, and can spare three more minutes, check out the Simon & Schuster promo featuring the author himself below, enjoy!


  1. Well, if Canucks are eligible, I'll throw my name in the hat. The next Maberry book on my tbr pile is Bad Moon Rising. I've heard more than enough praise for Rot & Ruin to know that it needs to be on my wish list--and soon my bookshelf.

    Choosing him as your favorite author isn't a terrible decision by any stretch, I dare say.

    email addy in Blogger profile.

  2. All contests (unless otherwise specified) are open worldwide. So, yes, you are eligible. Just make sure to enter by emailing your name and address to

  3. We love our Canucks! Enter away! Just so you don't miss out, you will have to email the link. This comment section conversation won't count as an entry. I wish it were that easy; but, it would be very laborious to maintain.

  4. So, I waaay too late for the contest, but I just finished reading this book and LOVED it. As soon as I finished it, I handed it over to my 12 y/o son to read. I can't wait to get started on the next book!


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