Though Rot & Ruin had a bevy of characters, none of them truly stuck out for me. What I did enjoy however, was watching Benny and Tom’s relationship evolve. Originally strained because of Benny’s belief that Tom was a coward, Benny had absolutely no respect for Tom or his job as a bounty hunter. All that began to change as the veil of innocence was lifted from Benny’s eyes after his first trip into the rot and ruin, and he experienced a zombie kill for the first time. Listening to Tom explain how he was a different bounty hunter than most, and his reasons for it, we got to see Benny begrudgingly accept that his brother might not be as awful as he had imagined. It was also interesting to see Tom’s patience get stretched to its breaking point, because of Benny’s foolish beliefs about “cool” bounty hunters like Charlie and The Hammer. It was a really interesting dynamic, that two people could have lived under the same roof for fifteen years, and know so little about one another.
His experiences in the rot and ruin changed Benny, gave him perspective and showed him how sheltered his life had been despite his surroundings. His time with Tom also made him begin to doubt everything he had been taught about zombies, and this is where Rot & Ruin’s philosophical and ethical questions about the treatment of zombies came in to play. We don’t currently disrespect the diseased or the dead, so why should that change if the particular disease they contract happens to make them the walking dead? What right do we have to take their life, when their friends/family could be searching for them, for closure? How can we so easily take the life of someone who used to be human? When a creature is acting on instinct, without malice, do we seek out each one in order to destroy them all? Then why are zombies any different? It’s these kinds of questions that Tom puts into Benny’s head, widening his worldview and changing how he views the undead.
But while waxing poetic about the undead was fascinating, Rot & Ruin did have quite a bit of action up its sleeves as well! I really enjoyed watching Tom and Benny hunt down Charlie’s gang and I loved the element of suspense added with The Lost Girl. I found her history really intriguing, and found myself hoping they found her – if only to see how life in the rot and ruin would fashion a young girl. Watching Tom perform closures for his clients was heartbreaking, and it made me better understand how so many other bounty hunters would avoid his line of work; it takes a certain kind of character to handle such an intense job. I could have done without the wishy-washy romance, which seemed forced and lacked passion, but I really enjoyed the slight twists at the end (even though I saw them both coming).
With well-placed comedic moments intersecting some of the more intense moments, compelling discussions surrounding the treatment of the undead and a fast-paced plot, I’m eager for more; bring on book two, Dust and Decy!