Friday, October 1, 2010

Sci-Fi Friday Review + Giveaway: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Yeah, you read that subject right! To kick off October right, I'm jumping in with a PERSONALIZED, SIGNED copy of Jonathan Maberry's new YA zombie novel Rot & Ruin! Read through my review to find the details at the bottom.

Rot & RuinSet 14 years after the dead first began to rise, Benny Imura is 15 and has to choose his career quickly, before the town cuts his ration allowance in half. Benny looks into pretty much every half-decent job in town (and even a couple that are less-than-decent), all hoping to avoid the inevitable: joining the family business and becoming his brother's apprentice. What does his brother do?

Kill zombies.

Benny and his older brother Tom have a complicated relationship - as in Benny does little more than tolerate his older brother, who is totally uncool in comparison to the bad-ass zombie bounty hunters that tell tall tales filled with daring and adventure to entertain the kids. But when Benny runs out of other job options, he reluctantly begins training to join his brother in the field - and learns that there's a lot more to zombie hunting than just whacking zoms.

When Jonathan was talking about the novel at Sunday's Books of Wonder event, he noted that zombie novels are never about the zombies - the zombies are metaphors and catalysts for change. I think rarely has that fact come through as clearly as it does in Rot & Ruin. This is not a book about zombies. This isn't even really a book about zombie hunters. It's a book about brothers, about family, and about what it means to be human. There's lots of philosophy in this book - not the heavy sort that put me to sleep in college, but this is definitely a book that asks readers to think.

That's not to say there isn't any zombie killing action in the story. In fact, there's quite a bit, and Benny is often in the thick of it, even though he's not a trained bounty hunter yet, which adds to the drama - often he's armed with nothing more than a bokken

Placing the story within one generation or so of the onset of the zombies was an excellent idea. It's far enough that people realistically have some knowledge of the zombies (what will make a person return, how to kill them, what attracts them), but it still makes sense for some of the history to have to be explained to someone like Benny who was barely a toddler when the outbreak again. While some scenes were heavy on the exposition as older brother Tom explains the ways of the world to Benny, the reason for the exposition never felt forced; it just could have been trimmed a little. Also, Tom spends a bit too much time congratulating Benny for asking great questions; there certainly could have been a little more showing rather than telling.

I also have to give a major shout out for the multi-cultural cast. Tom and Benny are Japanese-American - which explains the affinity for Japanese weaponry (Tom uses a katana when fighting with a blade - remember, blades are quieter and don't need reloading!). A quick rundown of the heritages of other characters is given at one point as well - a doctor born in India, another man from Oaxaca, and Vietnamese and Chinese characters as well. While the zombies are a more-or-less uniform shade of gray, the living characters are vibrant and represent the real diversity found in the contemporary United States.

I know a book, especially a zombie book, is resonating with me when I can't wait to finish it so I can go work on my own novel. I've been toiling for ages on my own zombie novel, and I find my biggest inspiration to get back to writing is to read another great book. In this case, I'm not inspired because I think I have a superior take on zombies - rather I'm just excited about some day adding my own bit of input into this rich genre, and I get excited by what other people are adding along the way.

While you're waiting for the next book in the trilogy to come out (Dust & Decay), I highly recommend you check out Jonathan's website. There's a great interview up right now with Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead Tossed Waves) and Alden Bell (The Reapers are the Angels - which I hadn't heard of before! Amazon doesn't list it as a YA novel, but the protagonist is 15, so you can be sure I'm trying to get my hands on it now) giving their thoughts on all things zombie.


This is the part you're waiting for, right?

After my Fall releases post last week, I got a lovely e-mail from Jonathan offering up a signed copy of Rot & Ruin for giveaway here on the blog! After responding that yes, I would love to host a giveaway, he upped the ante on his offer: not only will the book be signed, but he'll personalize the book for the winner! So instead of just his signature, the book will be signed just for you!

The contest is going to run for one week - I'll announce the winner on Friday, October 8th.

How to enter? Leave a comment in this entry with your e-mail address. And just to make this fun, answer the same question I posed to Jonathan and the other panelists last Sunday: do you prefer fast zombies or slow? 

The winner will be chosen randomly - as in my last giveaway the question is just to make the entries more interesting - and I'll send Jonathan the winner's e-mail address so the two of you can work out signing and shipping details. 


Kulsuma said...

count me in please if this is international

i prefer slow zombies so i can outrun them!


Rachel Stark said...

Do you mean if I have to fight them, or if I have to read about them? Of course if I'm fighting them I prefer slow zombies. And slow zombies do seem to fit more with the tradition. But fast zombies, a la I Am Legend, can be so much more terrifying.

My email is rachel[dot]stark[at]hotmail[dot]com

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the giveaway! This novel sounds like a winner. I suppose I like the shambling zombies that inexorably creep closer and closer. They don't seem that frightening at first, being so slow, and yet they keep coming and coming, and somehow they somehow can't be outrun... like death itself. *shudders*


Meghan R said...

This book sounds awesome! I'm a traditionalist, so I prefer the slow zombies. Though I admit that the fast zombies are a great twist on a metaphor that can be played out at times.


Mari said...

I am going to break with the group. I like my zombies fast!

vvb32 reads said...

can never get enought of zombies whether they be metaphor or horror haunts.
slow, please.
vvb32 at

Tia said...

The zombies gotta be slow! Otherwise how are the measly humans able to come up with something cool to protect themselves?

tiasbook AT gmail DOT com

elizabeth said...

Awesome contest!

I prefer slow zombies, but I do enjoy fast zombies in movies. It makes it more exciting.

swordsforfighting at yahoo dot com

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