Bites

Pub date: August 30th, 2011.

Six months have passed since the terrifying battle with Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer in the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot & Ruin. It’s also six months since Benny Imura and Nix Riley saw something in the air that changed their lives. Now, after months of rigorous training with Benny’s zombie-hunter brother Tom, Benny and Nix are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future. Lilah the Lost Girl and Benny’s best friend Lou Chong are going with them.

Sounds easy. Sounds wonderful. Except that everything that can go wrong does. Before they can even leave there is a shocking zombie attack in town. But as soon as they step into the Rot & Ruin they are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, insane murderers and the horrors of Gameland –where teenagers are forced to fight for their lives in the zombie pits. Worst of all…could the evil Charlie Pink-eye still be alive?

In the great Rot & Ruin everything wants to kill you. Everything…and not everyone in Benny’s small band of travelers will make it out alive. (goodreads.com)

Evul. Jonathan Maberry is an evul, evul man. Holy good mother this was such a truly awesome sequel that I’m having a hard time forming it into words.
I LOVE Maberry’s zombies. Love them. They’re so Romero but don’t second guess them. Like any good virus, it mutates so while he sticks to the classic Romero notion of slow, shambling, unthinking zombies, there’s a twist. And it’s pretty terrifying.
As if you thought things couldn’t get any harder for Benny and Nix and Lilah and Tom (and Chong now), you thought so wrong you need to go dunk yourself in a dunk tank. Maberry does things to his characters that only the most sadistic of gods would do to its people. And I love him for it. He stretches and bends his characters, pushing them to the brink of their own destruction, just to see what they would do. Maybe they make it out, maybe they don’t. But none of them are unscathed by it. They all show the battle scars of a mental and physical war run ripshod over their persons time after time after time. And they’re all the better for it. Maberry’s characters are some of the deepest, most dynamic I’ve found in YA to date. If you don’t love them, I’m going to question your integrity as a human being.
There are horrifying revelations popping up all over the book that’ll have you gasping (probably literally) and just maybe screaming at the book (just watch where you do it, you don’t want people to think you’re too insane). Mayberry goes THERE over and over and over again. Where’s THERE? Where you think he just wouldn’t go with the plot, where it would be too terrifying, too gruesome to even contemplate. He goes THERE, comes back and then crosses THERE to the other side where there’s unknown stuff waiting. DUST & DECAY will keep you guessing until the last page. Maberry is so willing torture the hell out of his characters that you couldn’t possibly admit to yourself that he might go THERE and when he does, whether you guessed it or not, you’re still shocked.
And the ending? EVUL. Had me in tears. Literally. Thankfully I was home and could weep openly without judgment (although my dog did look at me a little strangely). There’s resolve yet everything shatters but at the same time life goes on. You watch as these kids slog through hardship after hardship and yet even at the end, faced with the choice of going back to something easy or pressing on to something unknown, they take the road less traveled because it’s who they are, shaped by the Ruin into something they were always meant to be.
Jonathan Maberry should be dipped in gold and worshipped as the zombie god he is. Read this series. Read it now. Then read it again and again and again. It is so fantastic in so many ways that I can’t even possibly name them all. I don’t think the language has created a few of those descriptors yet. Just read it.

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