I immensely enjoyed Rot and Ruin last year, but I was a little wary of its sequel because it could fall into the second book pitfall (where it just sets up for the next book) or just wouldn't be as good. Dust and Decay proved to be even better than Rot and Ruin. The character development and twists and turns are much better and more involved. Benny Imura grew out of being incredibly whiny and immature in the last book, but he still has a lot of growing to do. Dealing with the very harsh realities outside his town makes him realize what's important. Nix is much different. Her mother's death left her more somber and depressed than before and very eager to leave her home town forever. I really enjoyed her journal entries interspersed between chapters throughout the novel. They gave a lot of insight into her character and enlightened us about the science behind the zombies. Lilah has been one of the most consistently strong and stoic characters, but she breaks down and shows a softer side of herself. She has to come to terms with that fact that she can lose the people she cares about after not having anyone for so long. My favorite was the insight into Tom's character and how he did things to perpetuate love instead of hatred. He would examine his feelings to make sure he was in the right frame of mind and would give his all to protect those he loves and what is right.
Dust and Decay covers a lot of new territory. The Ruin is much more wild and dangerous than Benny ever saw. It's home to wild animals (even a rhino!) and zombies as well as bounty hunters and some very unsavory people. Every time these characters think they are safe, something else dangerous comes up that they have to deal with. The action is practically nonstop. Many new characters are introduced. The new villain is incredibly creepy on many different levels. He makes my skin crawl. Many of the bounty hunters from Benny's trading cards are introduced as well. My favorite of them are J-Dog and Dr. Skillz, who are cheerful with their obsolete surfer dude slang and laid back attitudes despite seeing horrible things and living in the wild.
Jonathan Maberry's strength is creating characters that I cared about and that were incredibly realistic. I could read about these characters all day and I found myself longing to read the book when I was busy. I am so happy Flesh and Bone comes out this month because I don't think I could have waited months for the next book.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins