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Literature / Rot & Ruin

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Rot & Ruin is a four-book series written by Jonathan Maberry. It takes place 15 years after a zombie virus spreads around the world. Benny Imura is a teenager who lives in the town of Mountainside with his brother, Tom (a bounty hunter), and his friends. After his fifteenth birthday, he is forced to get a job and reluctantly joins Tom, with whom he has a strained relationship.

The books in the series are:

  • Rot & Ruin
  • Dust & Decay
  • Flesh & Bone
  • Fire & Ash

Provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Benny suspects that Zak Matthias's dad had been beating him.
  • Action Girl: Lilah.
    • And later Nix.
      • Even later there's Riot.
  • Always Someone Better: Joe the Ranger is this to Tommy. Tommy is a "talented amateur" while Joe is a veteran special ops soldier. However even Joe is no match for St. John who is the deadliest man in the world.
  • After the End
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted. Brother Andrew is a deadly shot with his compound bow. He overkills Eve's dad with 2 arrows and then severely injures Chong in the shoulder. It gets worse, the arrow is barbed so removing it almost kills Chong. Finally, Andrew coats his arrows with fluids from zombies and it infects Chong.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted, carpet coats are well...coats made from thick, strong carpet. They can easily stop a zombie bite from getting through and anyone who knows how to sew can make a good set of these. The only drawback is they're brutal to wear in hot weather, but they're so useful that almost all the townfolk have some.
    • Also Joe's dog Grimm is decked in out spiked armour and a horned helmet that's very effective at fighting zombies and cultists.
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  • Asian and Nerdy: Chong.
  • Back from the Dead: Eh, sort of. In the second book,when Benny and Nix are thrust into the Zombie pits, they find out that Jack had found Charlie, (who Benny thought he killed at the end of the first one) as a zom, decked out in armor.
  • Badass Bookworm: Chong becomes this later on.
    • Nix is as well. Using the journal she always carries, she regularly documents zombie behavior, biology and tactics for dealing with them.
  • Battle Couple: Benny and Nix.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted, Nix has a long scar going from temple to jawline.
  • Big Bad: Charlie Matthias for the first book, Preacher Jack for the second, and Saint John from Flesh and Bone onwards.
  • Broken Pedestal: Benny thought Charlie Matthias was the 'man' for being a high profile bounty hunter. Then he learns just what a monster the guy really is.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Benny is half Japanese, half Irish.
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  • Cool Bike: The reapers have these.
  • Corrupt Church: The Reapers are a group of people who worship Death and want to basically kill everyone and "send them to the darkness".
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Initially played with. After 15 years since First Night, humans have adapted really well in dealing with zombies to the point where kids collect and trade zombie cards. The town of Mountainside, while not easy-living by modern standards, is a paradise compared to most other settings' post-apocalypse towns and everyone has a house to live in with daily regular meals. In fact, Mountainside could have easily taken large chunks of territory from the zombies, but are too complacent to. They're so complacent that they don't make anything better than a chain-link fence to protect themselves with. Unfortunately it turns out that the Rot and Ruin world is far more crapsack than the Mountainsiders realize...
  • Damsel in Distress: Nix in the 1st book and then Chong in the rest of the series.
  • Dark Secret: Many regular citizens of Mountainside knew about Gamesland and the kidnapping of children for zombie fights. In fact, these individuals were spectators of these matches.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The kids go through a lot in this series including the deaths of Tom and Eve that could have been prevented, but by the end of the series the Reaper army gets curb-stomped at Mountainside, all the surviving kids will form couples, the zombie plague will end and it's outright stated that the new world will become a better place than the world before First Night.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Riot used to be a member of the Reapers, but during a scouting mission on an isolated community, she couldn't kill her intended victim a happy mother and child. She tried to turn the raid aside with false information, but the rest of her gang still went out and slaughtered everyone. This led to her fleeing the Reapers.
  • Fallen States of America: The US is reduced to the gov't of 'The Nation of America' which claims to own the whole continent!! In reality, the gov't only controls parts of North Carolina and everything else in the US are sporadic settlements, wilderness, and zombie-haunted ruins. Additionally death by disease is common (Mountainside is relatively lucky in that they have a doctor and a pharmacy that can make medicine out of common ingredients)
  • Fiery Red Head: Benny and Nix.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The zombies can be dangerous but are just too stupid and slow to threaten a settlement, even a closed door can stop regular zombies. The real threat to surviving humans are local thugs and dangerous cults.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Used by both Tom and Benny. For a little while, Joe the Ranger uses one until he gets his hands on more modern firepower. Nix gets an ancient katana from Joe that was stolen from a museum on loan from Japan.
  • Knife Nut: The majority of the Reapers are this and the elite forces of the Reapers are so dangerous with a knife that some of them can easily kill off soldiers carrying assault rifles.
  • Killed Off for Real: Tom. And later Eve
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Things look grim for our heroes, as hundreds of Reapers set out to attack them at the crashed CP-130. But a delirious Benny then asks what's a LAW rocket and what's an RPG. Once Joe gets his hands on the weapon stash inside, the cultists eat a one-man barrage of missiles that wipes out the small army in seconds.
  • Meaningful Name: A girl named Phoenix has fiery red hair.
  • New Old West: The world has fallen back into a social dynamic clearly inspired by the old west. The survivors live in fortified stockade towns, technology has regressed to the point that horse and carriage are the predominant mode of transportation, and there's a culture of flamboyant, larger than life bounty hunters. Tom mentions that many townsfolk even frame the undead as stand-ins for hostile native tribes. It's deconstructed in that the mindset is framed as a nostalgic coping mechanism that prevents real forward progress on rebuilding the world.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: During First Night, the decision to go nuclear on zombie hordes. The zombies aren't affected by radiation poisoning and more people end up getting killed by contaminated hotspots and standing too close to zombies that are highly radioactive. A lot less people would have died if nukes hadn't been dropped.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: The slang term for zombie is "zom".
  • Not So Different: Sort of. At the end of the final book, after Benny tells Saint John that all he wants is an end to suffering, Saint John says that that's what he was trying to do before killing himself.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The zombies affected by the mutagen are much faster and more intelligent, able to use tools, open doors, and perform other simple tasks. Luckily, they rot and fall apart within a week. They also ooze black slime everywhere, and are crawling with parasitic white worms, which are actually the hatched parasites that cause the Reaper Plague.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Chong wasn't 100% zombified, medical intervention involving an imperfect version of the experimental treatment delayed his zombification. This was effective enough for the others to get the Archangel treatment that reverts him back to human. However it's likely he'll be taking pills for the rest of his life.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: Grimm is Joe's war mastiff. Heavily armoured in spiked plate and chain, Grimm is trained to kill zombies by ramming them with his spikes and head-butting them with a horned helmet.
  • Pretend We're Dead: Sort of. Humans have developed a substance called Cadaverine which has an overpowering smell of decayed meat. Using this will fool regular zombies into thinking you're one of them, provided you don't do something suspicious like hack apart a fellow zombie.
  • Science Is Bad: What many people in Mountainside believe, that's why the town relies on only a few hand-cranked generators for electricity and never restore their electronics even after the EMP blasts end.
    • Science earns its bad reputation given the various black projects that lead to First Night.
  • Serial Killer: What St. John actually was before the First Night. It's just after the fall of modern civilization, his brand of crazy has become alot more tolerable to the desperate many.
  • Schizo Tech: Inverted. Stuff like electricity and cars are considered to be "part of the old world", since the apocalypse happened 15 years ago.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Both Benny and Nix.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: St. John is the deadliest person on the planet and can easily kill anyone with his knives, but at the end of the story Benny's tactics have forced the Reaper army to lay down arms, a vaccine has been made which will treat the plague and burnout the zombies, and Benny has killed St. John's right hand man. Rather than fight St. John, Benny tells him his ultimate goal was to end suffering, at which point John kills himself.
  • Unsafe Haven: Somewhat subverted with Santuary. Sanctuary is a safe place,but if you must be taken to the 'clean facility' wing of Sanctuary,you can't ever leave.
    • Played straight later, Sanctuary runs on a near-skeleton crew. The dirty secret of Sanctuary is that many of the base staff are already infected with the Reaper plague and have to be held in isolation wards. This means that there's only a handful of actual soldiers guarding the base. The Reapers exploit this weakness with devastating effect.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Well, duh.
  • Zombie Infectee: While getting bit was originally a 100% likelihood of turning into a zombie, merely dying of any cause that doesn't destroy your brainstem will eventually turn you into a zombie. This leads to people carrying a Sliver, which is a sharp sliver of metal for stabbing a corpse in the back of the neck.


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