Series Review : Benny Imura

I like reading books with monsters in them, and vampires had always been my monster of choice.  But when my older son Alex, then about 16, read The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, he recommended it to me.  I loved it because it was so serious about preparing for the zombie apocalypse, not tongue-in-cheek like I was expecting.   And then, of course, we read World War Z, also by Brooks, which is a compilation of interviews with survivors of the Zombie War.  Both books are excellent, and I’ve even recommended them to non-readers—who have loved them.

Several of us in our department are zombie lovers, so this post is to celebrate the third season opener of AMC’s The Walking Dead and the recent release of the third book in Jonathan Maberry’s Benny Imura series.

Rot & Ruin starts 14 years after First Night, when the zombie plague began.  Benny’s earliest memory is of his mother handing his toddler self to his older half-brother, Tom, who ran away with him while his infected father attacked his mother.  Now they live in a small fenced-in community in California, and since Benny is 15, he must find a job or his food rations will be cut.  After trying and losing several jobs, he agrees to learn the “Family Business” from Tom.  Tom is a zombie killer.  And though Benny considers Tom a coward for abandoning his mother, he travels with Tom out into the Rot & Ruin (the world outside the fences).  He discovers that there is more than one kind of zombie killer…and learns that maybe his perception of Tom needs a little tweaking.

While Benny and Tom were out in the Ruin in the first book, they saw something (no spoilers here!) that made them think that there might be more advanced civilization out east.  So, in Dust & Decay, Benny and some of his friends leave their safe community and head east—and they know they will not be returning.  And in the third book, Flesh & Bone, their search continues.

As you would expect from these great covers, Mayberry’s zombies act like you would expect, with the usual shambling and moaning and gnashing of teeth.  People are afraid of the “zoms” and think they are monsters.  But the real enemies are the people who use the zombies to further their own ends.  For example, some of the zombie killers kidnap teens and throw them in the pit with zombies—and the spectators bet on the outcome.

I love a good horror story, and the books in this series provide all the gore and enthusiastic mayhem that I expect in a well-written zombie novel.  You’ll find lots action, zombie attacks, and sword play.  But I was surprised to find a lot of sensitivity in it as well—in Benny’s changing relationship with his brother and in Tom’s belief that zombies were all once people and should be “quieted” with respect.  Mayberry’s novels are not merely great monster novels, but they are good human stories as well.

Bibliography:

The Benny Imura series by Jonathan Maberry. Gr 8-12.

  • Rot & Ruin. 9781442402324. 2010.
  • Dust & Decay. 9781442402355. 2011.
  • Flesh & Bone. 9781442439894. 2012.

World War Z : An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. 9780307346605. 2006. Gr 10-Adult.

The Zombie Survival Guide : Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks. 9781400049622. 2003. Gr 9-Adult.

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