Tag Archives: 2010

Rot and Ruin – Jonathan Maberry

Published 2010 

Zombies, zombies, zombies. The literary world may be overrun, but personally this is the first young-adult book I’ve read featuring the bitey undead. I must say, I liked this take on the trope. Benny Imura was barely a toddler when the world ended. His first memory is of his now-zombie father going after his mother, while his half-brother just runs, carrying Benny away forever. He hates them both: the zombie monsters, and the coward brother. When Benny turns 15, his rations will be cut in half if he doesn’t find a job. Finally, exhausting all other options, Benny has no choice but to apprentice in the family business: zombie hunting. He loves the idea of killing zombies, but isn’t keen on doing it with his brother – both attitudes which are soon put to the test when he has to face the realities of life outside the protective walls of the town.

Maberry’s zombie-mythology is absolutely brilliant, and though the zombies never lose their inherent danger or scariness he allows the reader to pity the creatures for the humans they had once been. This is a crucial part of Benny’s growth as a character as well, and though the novel is action packed, it really is about his emotional journey and the choices he makes about the kind of person he wants to be.  To get back to the action though, there were some really dynamic scenes, with my favourite being the horse charge – from my experience you don’t often get them in zombie stories and it was just one of those small things which add to the uniqueness of the novel.

Were there some aspects of the novel I thought could have been executed better? Definitely. For instance, a clear idea of Tom’s age earlier in novel would have eased confusion over why Benny was so convinced he was a coward for not saving their mother. What flaws the novel does have are easily overlooked though, and I enjoyed the read very much. I’d certainly recommend it for anyone looking for a mixed-genre adventure.

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The Midnight Zoo – Sonya Hartnett

Published 2010

Sonya Hartnett is well regarded as one of Australia’s literary treasures, so it may come as a surprise to learn that before now I had never been able to finish one of her books. The Midnight Zoo is set in what is probably World War One, though the conflict is never specifically named, and follows two Romany brothers, Andrej and Tomas, as they with their infant sister stumble into a demolished village. Untouched by bombing, the only structure left in the town is a zoo, and the children’s story of loss and uncertainty is soon paralleled by that of the animals they come to befriend.

Much of the story is told through vivid flashbacks, recollections or dream sequences, which somehow seem to ground the work at the same time as emphasising those elements which give it the feel of a modern day fable. The boys’ separation from their parents is especially vivid amongst the backdrop of a zoo full of talking animals.

Hartnett folds the more fantastical elements of the novel into the story seamlessly. The reader doesn’t question the existence of these things, especially in a world which has already been turned upside down, although I do question the wisdom of introducing the ‘horseman of night’ when he doesn’t do anything except interrupt the narration occasionally.

This novel has an incredibly deft touch with prose. The language is smooth, and lyrical and the story simple, yet effective. Though the novel does use some vocabulary which may be tricky for more inexperienced readers, it just begs to be read aloud.

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