What You Need to Know: This Western masquerading as a zombie novel features lots of action and guy appeal.
Summary: Benny Imura can’t keep a job, so he decides to go into the family business – killing the undead. When Benny was 2, the zombies rose, and humanity was forced into small, technologically deficient enclaves. Benny lives with his older brother Tom, who like many others, makes a living by killing zombies in the rot and ruin beyond the town gates. Many think Tom is a hero, but Benny knows better. Tom is a quiet man, unlike the swaggering, boastful bounty hunters who pass through Mountainside. When Benny is 15, he must work, or loose his food rations. Not willing to take up the grunt labor that makes life possible, he apprentices with his brother. Outside of Mountainside, Benny learns more about his brother, and the killers Ben once admired, than he wants.
What worked: OMG – I LOVED this book. Maberry nails Benny’s voice, a boy who thinks he’s a man, who has everything figured out, and then has the rug pulled out from under him. Maberry also does some really nice world building in desc ribing life in Mountainside, building details naturally into the text, and not relying on info dumps or ominecent narration.
Maberry builds a strong Old West feel into his future zombie dystopia. Hand cranks power the town, gaslamps light the darkness, bounty hunters are both feared and idolized, sherrifs and posses abound. Everbody travels by horse, and news moves slow. Westerns don’t often pop up in Teen Lit, so I was charmed by the novelty of the tropes being used.
Also, Benny is half Japanese. Characters of color can be rare in teen horror novels, so this was good to see.
And, Tom kills zombies with a samuari sword. That is inexpressibly bad ass.
What didn’t: The romance elements of this book felt a little forced. Benny goes from not wanting anything to do with girl-next-door Nix, to falling for a girl he’s only seen on a trading card, to risking everything to save Nix in rapid order.
However: I have little patience for romance, as I’ve said before. Less smooching, more decapitating! And Nix is pretty bad ass herself.
Who would I give this book to: Fans of zombie novels, such as World War Z or The Walking Dead, looking for a different type of undead story
Note the First: Killer First Line “Benny Imura couldn’t hold a job, so he took to killing”
Note the Second: This would be an interesting book to pair with Black Hole Sun, another “genre Western”.