It's been 14 years since First Night, when the dead came back to life. Six billion people have died (and reanimated) since then, and America has collapsed into isolated communities living within the great Rot and Ruin. Benny is 15, which means it's time to get a job or face cut rations, but his general laziness leaves him with only one employment option: join his stuffy, sword-swinging, Japanese half-brother, Tom, as an apprentice bounty hunter. This means heading beyond the gates to slice and dice zoms, but Benny quickly begins to see the undead in a new light as well as realizing that Tom is much more than he ever let on. The plot is driven by an evil bounty-hunter rival and the cruel games he plays, but Maberry has more than gore on his mind. The chief emotion here is sadness, and the book plays out like an extended elegy for a lost world. Tom's a bit too perfect and his pontification too extended, but this is nevertheless an impressive mix of meaning and mayhem.--Kraus, Daniel Copyright 2010 Booklist
The delineation between man and monster, survivor and victim is fiercely debated in Maberry's (Patient Zero) thoughtful, postapocalyptic coming-of-age tale. In Mountainside, an oasis of civilization in a world ravaged by zombies, residents must find work at age 15 or have their rations halved. With every other option exhausted, Benny Imura reluctantly apprentices with his older brother, Tom, as a zombie killer, despite blaming Tom for their parents' deaths. As Benny accompanies Tom into the hostile wilderness, he learns how wrong he was about many things, from the supposed "coolness" of larger-than-life bounty hunter Charlie Matthias to the inhuman nature of "zoms" and the true purpose of Tom's work. The eye-opening experiences continue when Charlie kidnaps Benny's potential girlfriend, Nix, as part of his efforts to track down the fabled Lost Girl, who holds the key to a deadly secret. In turns mythic and down-to-earth, this intense novel combines adventure and philosophy to tell a truly memorable zombie story, one that forces readers to consider them not just as flesh-eating monsters or things to be splattered, but as people. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Gr 8 Up-At first glance, this appears to be a retelling of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte, 2009) but with a male protagonist. But Maberry's vision of a zombie-infested future has more action, more violence, and more emotional depth. Benny Imura was a baby when the zombie apocalypse happened. His first memory is of his mother handing him to his older half brother as she is being dragged down by his zombie-fied father. He resents Tom for leaving his mother, for running away. To Benny, Tom is a coward. To everyone else in their fenced-in town, Tom is the toughest, bravest zombie killer in California. As Benny approaches his 15th birthday, he must find a job or forfeit half of his food rations. After losing half a dozen jobs, he reluctantly agrees to work as Tom's apprentice in the "Family Business." When they travel out into the Rot and Ruin, he witnesses things that change his opinion of his brother and forever alter his perception of the world. He also learns that flesh-eating zombies aren't the scariest or most dangerous monsters around. As with all zombie stories, this one requires a fairly large suspension of disbelief, but once the brothers enter the Rot and Ruin, readers become too wrapped up in the plot to dwell on some lapses of logic. The relationship between Benny and Tom becomes surprisingly complex and satisfying, as does the romantic subplot between Benny and his friend Nix. The length of the book may intimidate some reluctant readers but the striking cover, compelling action, and brutal violence will draw them in and keep them reading.-Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.