Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Last year I was head-over-heels in awe with Feed by Mira Grant. This year I’m totally hyped over Rot & Ruin. Zombie (and vampire and werewolf) novels can get pretty stale. They can all read exactly the same after a while. When one stands out and makes you think (actually ponder things) and feel (tears in your eyes!) it’s a book to share. This is one of those rare zombie books.
Rot & Ruin takes place fourteen years after First Night, the time when the dead started to rise and bite and infect their fellow man. In Mountainside, a fenced in community of about 8,000, people are living as best they can knowing that zoms are on the other side of the fence line. Humans have become scavengers, relying on peddlers and bounty hunters to bring them supplies from elsewhere beyond the fence. At fifteen, the age Benny has just turned, all residents of Mountainside must find a job to qualify for daily rations. Benny, not a huge fan of his brother Tom, but out of job options decides to apprentice to Tom and become a bounty hunter. One who quiets the dead.
What sets this book apart from others in the genre is the emotion. Tom, and in turn many of the other characters, see the zoms not as creatures but as people with a horrific disease. People who, while not responsible for their actions and completely unthinking, still deserve respect for the human beings they were/are. It’s something so many books and movies ignore. These are not simply ravening hoards of monsters; these are people who were once mothers, fathers and children. These monsters were once us.