Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Zombies are Back in Town

Dust & Decay
Unwilling heroes are probably my favorite characters. They don't want the fame and honor of being people's heroes, but people naturally trust them, look up to them, and expect to be led by them. Tom Imura is that kind of man. He is the bounty hunter who has kept the peace in the Rot and Ruin, even though he wasn't trying. His very presence made people behave and stopped the lawlessness. But when he packs up to leave, people get worried. Death and Decay is Jonathan Maberry's amazing portrayal of an unwilling hero and the people who would put their lives in his hands.

Benny Imura used to resent his brother for abandoning their parents on the First Night, the night the dead began to walk again. When he found out his parents were actually infected and Tom saved him, it made him see Tom in a new light. Then when Tom saved his best friend, Nix, and put an end to Gameland- the place where evil men kidnap kids and have gladiator-esque fights between them and zombies- Benny knew Tom was a man to look up to. Now, after seeing a jet fly above them, Tom is determined to leave the Rot and Ruin to find the jet and secure a better life with his brother and their motley crew of friends.

Despite training them, not all are ready to leave Sanctuary. Nix, after seeing her mother murdered by an evil bounty hunter and being thrown in Gameland, is ready to go. So is Lilah, the mythical Lost Girl who lived in the Rot and Ruin and turned out to not be such a myth after all. But Benny, Chong and Morgie aren't so sure. Morgie decides to stay home, and Chong's mother finally agrees to let him go as long as it is only for a few nights and he comes right back instead of going on the full journey. Unfortunately, she couldn't have known the trouble brewing in the Rot and Ruin.

The trip is immediately off on the wrong foot as strange things start to happen. They come across some weird characters, a man who was executed by way of zombie, and the monk and sisters at their first stop are missing. When Chong disappears, Tom goes to find him and leaves Benny, Nix and Lilah to wait for them to return. What he couldn't have known was that things have gotten very dangerous out there and someone doesn't want them to make it out of town. When thousands of zombies overrun the building they are hiding in, Nix, Benny, Lilah barely make it out alive, but they are separated. Now everyone is trying to make it to the next stop- the old hotel and trading post- alive. What they don't know is there are lots of people out there looking for them- some to warn them and some to kill or kidnap them. Can they find each other without falling prey to the zombies... or worse?

This was a phenomenal follow-up to the first book. I simply could not get enough of this story and stayed up way past my bedtime reading it. I absolutely love the characters, all of them. The good characters make you want to scream every time they are in danger and the bad characters make you want to find a sword and take them on yourself. The story is exciting and non-stop action. There are even some unexpected twists that I won't ruin for you, but I will hint that one involves a very surprising animal.

The writing is appropriate for a wide range of ages with no sexual content or inappropriate language. There is a good deal of violence, as one would expect in any zombie story, but it isn't overdone and it isn't the focus of the story- the characters are. I have read Maberry's adult fiction as well, and he tends to follow the same rules- the characters are your biggest investment, not the gore. He wants you to love them or hate them, but either way, you are invested in their lives. The other stuff is just icing on the cake. So even though the premise is violent, the story isn't too much so. Bring the Rot and Ruin into your life and you will never be the same... even if it means you are now a zombie!

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