Narrated by Brian Hutchinson
Length: 12 Hrs 9 Min
Genre: Young Adult Zombie Apocalypse
Quick Thoughts: Dust & Decay did what Rot & Ruin initially failed to, completely engage and thrill me. The adventure was grand, the characters memorable, the stakes high and the plot well executed. Any skepticism I had about the series was wiped away, leaving me impatiently waiting for the release date of Flesh & Bone, to see what is in store for Benny and his motley band.
As those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook can contest to, I talk about the Zombie Apocalypse a lot. When I’m not talking about the Zombie Apocalypse, I am talking about super plagues, alien invasions, comet strikes, and genetically engineered monkeys reeking havoc on our civilization. Yet, I have said this many times, I am not a Survivalist. I am not prepared for the apocalypse. I don’t want it to happen. The idea of Billions of people dying, of our civilization being thrust back into a new Dark Age does not fill me with excitement. I don’t want to see people die. I don’t want our streets overrun by undead hordes, violent raiders, and apocalyptic cultists. I enjoy apocalyptic literature because I am fascinated by the human struggle to survive. While there is a lot of darkness and despair in apocalyptic fiction, there is also a lot of hope. Yet, to be honest, sometimes other Zombie fans disturb me. Now, I love my fellow undead enthusiasts, but some seem a bit too excited for the end to come. Often, I will read reviews of zombie fiction and one of the major complaints I see is that certain titles are not gory enough. Now, I am not opposed to gore in a zombie novel, but it’s not an aspect I specifically look for. In Dust & Decay, Jonathan Maberry has a scene where there is a brutal event occurring at a place called Gameland, where children are pitted against zombies in fighting pits, and spectators bet on the fights. One of the most striking moments is when you realize that it’s not just degenerates and criminals attending these brutal events, but seemingly normal people. I wanted to think that this was far fetched, that seemingly normal people would not enjoy the brutality of something like Gameland. I wanted to point my finger at Maberry and yell, "unrealistic, that would never happen!" Sadly, if I am truly honest with myself, I don’t think I could.
I must admit, I was a bit hesitant to begin Dust & Decay, the second novel in Jonathan Maberry’s Young Adult Zombie Apocalypse series. I had mixed feeling about the first book in the series. I thought it was incredibly well written, and the characters were quite realistic, but, in all honestly, the main character Benny Imura, realistically annoyed me batshit. Also, to make matter worst, I was less than enthused with the performance of the narrator in the first novel, finding him to be a bit miscast for a young adult novel. There were two reasons that I decided to take it on. First off, the ending of Rot & Ruin ended with a fascinating discovery that had me quite intrigued. I could see where Maberry was sending the story and it seemed fascinating to me. Secondly, Maberry has been dropping not too subtle hints about a cameo appearance by one of my favorite characters in another of his series showing up in Flesh & Bone. For these reasons I gave Dust & Decay a listen. Initially, I was a bit disappointed. Maberry was indeed moving the characters in the direction I expected, but the progress was slow going, and I quickly began to realize that the major move into the greater world would take place in book 3. Yet, my disappointment was easily swept away by the narrative. Unlike Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decays totally mesmerized me. As much as I was annoyed by Benny in Rot & Ruin, I began to feel connected and almost protective of him as a character. In fact, I was beginning to become annoyed by some of the, in my opinion, unfair attacks made on Benny by his friends and enemies alike. While Maberry didn’t move his band of travelers as far as I was hoping, the scale and scope of the narrative was expanded in interesting and exciting new ways. The bad guys were more intense and less cartoonist, and the stakes even more dire, not just for Benny and Tom, but the entire community. Maberry also introduced us to a bunch of extremely colorful and entertaining characters, who injected a sense of humor into the narrative, as well as giving us a differing perspective on the Ruin that wasn’t all brutality. Dust & Decay did what Rot & Ruin initially failed to, completely engage and thrill me. The adventure was grand, the characters memorable, the stakes high and the plot well executed. Any skepticism I had about the series was wiped away, leaving me impatiently waiting for the release date of Flesh & Bone, to see what is in store for Benny and his motley band.
As I stated earlier, I had issues with Brian Hutchisons’s narration of Rot & Ruin. I found his voice to be a bit too old for a novel centering about a character who is 15 years old. While I still stick by that assertion, and apply it to Dust & Decay as well, I found Hutchinson narration to be improved for this audiobook. I think that there were definitely more older characters, with distinctive voices that fit nicely into Hutchinson’s wheelhouse. His pacing was still a bit uneven, but for the most part acceptable. Where he truly stands out is in his voicing of the eccentric and colorful bounty hunters and trail guards of the Ruin, as well as the two main bad guys. Personally, I would still have liked to hear what narrators like MacLeod Andrews or Kirby Heyborne, who both excel at reading both younger and older characters, and are my favorite YA narrators, would have done with this material. Yet, sadly, the last time I checked, no one has hired me to cast audiobooks, so I must accept what I have been given. So, Hutchinson’s narration worked better for me this time, and I won’t instantly shudder in trepidation when I find his name attached to Flesh & Bone.