Series: Benny Imura, #1
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Pages: 464 (Paperback)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Release Date: September 14, 2010
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.
Benny Imura: 15 years old, zombie attack survivor, has a strong aversion to demanding physical labor, and all around typical teenage boy. He puts on this show of hating his older brother, Tom, who saved him from the zombies as a baby rather than helping their mother. But really Benny is dying to know about the zombies and what it's like out in the Rot and Ruin, since the kids are generally kept in the dark about anything zombie related. To remedy this, Tom has Benny join the "family business" of bounty hunting, and it's nothing like Benny was expecting.
I'm pretty new to the zombie genre, so I don't have much to compare this one to, but I must say I really enjoyed it. It was really interesting, and I was never expecting, to sympathize with the zombies. What's happening out in the Rot & Ruin is not pretty, but it's not the living being eaten by the living dead. The living are the ones torturing the zombies. There's one scene in particular that was extremely disturbing. It felt all too real, like what might happen if this book was real life. It's easy to imagine people behaving this way toward animals and even other people. Just disgusting.
The story of the legendary wild child, man killer, The Lost Girl, was completely and utterly fascinating! I was just as captivated by her as Benny. She ends up being a major driving force to the plot as Tom and Benny head out to the great Rot and Ruin for a second time. But this time it's not for a crash course on bounty hunting. This time lives are at stake. I absolutely could not put this down once the story really got going. There's plenty of action, suspense, mystery, and a little romance. Everything that makes up a truly intriguing read.
Mixed into the story are tons of little details that added a whole lot to my enjoyment of the story. First there's the Zombie Cards, which are basically trading cards featuring famous zombies and bounty hunters. Of course, there's more to them than that. There's also the "science" of the zombies. No one really knows what is causing the dead to reanimate or why they behave they do, but a lot of random facts have been collected about them which I found really interesting. Then there's "the Children," a group of religious people who live out in the Rot and Ruin among the zombies. They do not believe in killing these "children of Lazarus" because they are thought to be who God intended to inherit the earth. I'm always fascinated at how religion appears in disastrous times, and the author did a great job creating this group for the story. Let's not forget Gameland, but I'll let you find out about that retched place on your own.
This was a surprisingly thought provoking novel. It really makes you consider who really is the monster. What if it was your family or friends that were transformed into zombies? How would you feel to have someone hunting them just because they had the misfortune to turn? These are the same questions Tom uses to get Benny to understand what his job is all about, and they're very effective. The author has written a seriously compelling novel, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking to try out the zombie genre or for a great read in general.