Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Read by Brian Hutchison
Genre: Young Adult, Zombies
Quick Thoughts: Despite some issues with narration, Rot & Ruin is an entertaining audiobook for Young Adults with plenty of depth to please adult listeners as well.
One of the things I have been trying to do these past few weeks that I have been focusing on zombie themed audiobooks is try to get a variety going. It’s easy, when listening to a series of similarly themed books, to fall into a rut. You can get burnt out of a subject matter, and start overlooking the good, or bad of a novel, just base on how you are feeling about the theme. I have tried not to listen to two tradition zombie apocalypse books in a row, bringing in things with different twists, or unique perspectives, without overlooking a book just because it tales a classic approach. That is one of the reasons that for my next selection in this theme I choose Jonathan Maberry’s Young Adult novel Rot & Ruin. I have said this before, Young Adult novels are not just adult novels with the sex, profanity and violence trimmed down. There is a specific style to the genre. The stories need to appeal to the audience, with adventure and romance, and with coming of age themes. There needs to be moral themes, a sense of hope in spite of desperate circumstances. Yet, these novels also cannot speak down to their audience, there needs to be realism in the characters. Creating shallow teenage characters, who don’t truly reflect teenagers of the day, is one way to ruin you career goals of being a successful Young Adult Author.
As an adult, I come to a novel like Rot & Ruin from a different perspective. First off, authors have a choice, create a whiny, self obsessed, obnoxious main character or write a fantasy of a world with unrealistic teenagers. Maberry went the realistic route, creating Benny Imura, a character I wanted to repeated smack in the face, with a couple of gut punches for flavor. He makes rash assumptions, is oblivious to anyone but himself, makes heroes out of scoundrels, overlooks those who truly care for him and has no empathy what so ever. Basically, a 15 teenage boy. What is satisfying for the listener is knowing that eventually something will change that worldview and responding with glee when it does. Essential to the plot of Rot & Ruin is the relationships of brothers. Maberry creates a complex relationship between Benny and his much older brother Tom, who acts as a surrogate parent. This relationship is the driving force of this novel, and what makes it work. The world of Rot & Ruin is a unique one in zombie fiction, not based on the style of the undead, but on the people’s reaction to them. I was fascinates by Tom and other character’s view of the undead which goes against much of what you come to expect in a zombie novel. While not too heavy handed, Maberry’s world is full or morality tales, with respect for the dead being one of the strongest. As an adult, I enjoyed Maberry’s slowly building world, with its revelations of true monsters, and a sense of more intriguing things to come. Teenagers will enjoy the adventure, the bond between friends, and Maberry’s traditional well choreographed action scenes.
It’s hard to judge Brian Hutchinson as a narrator based on this audiobook. I found him to be a poor choice for the narration of this novel. His tones and vocalizations were decidedly adult, making it harder to visualize Benny and his friends as the young people they were. His narrative delivery was slow, often times peppered with strange pauses, like he was reading an unfamiliar book. His voice is clear, and tone solid enough to not ruin the entire audio experience, and I grew more comfortable with it as the book progressed, Yet, there are some excellent narrators out there, like Kirby Heybourne and MacLeod Andrews who can do authentic teenage, and adult voices, and with a narrator like that I feel this audiobook production could have moved from good to great. Despite these issues with narration, Rot & Ruin is an entertaining audiobook for Young Adults with plenty of depth to please adult listeners as well.