Monday, September 28, 2015

Fire and Ash

Benny Imura and his friends have seen a lot in the few months they've been out in the ruin. They've found the mysterious airplane that they saw in their home town so long ago and the city of Sanctuary. The plane is a little underwhelming since the people involved with it refuse to tell them anything and are happy to hide themselves from people who could benefit from knowing they're out there. Sanctuary is more of a hospice than anything else. One hopeful development is a missing box from the airplane that may lead to a cure for the zombie disease, but who knows where it is. On top of these things, the Night Church, full of psychos that want everyone to die, is mounting a huge attack on their friends and family. How can Benny and his friends, still teenagers even after all their experience, do anything in the face of such huge odds?

Fire and Ash is the last book in the Rot and Ruin series and it's a bittersweet experience. I've been reading this series for years and I'm sad it's over, but happy to see where the characters end up. The thing that strikes me most about the book is just how much the characters have grown, Benny and Nix in particular. Benny still has some flashes of immaturity in the novel, but they are much more abbreviated than in the past. He sometimes pushes people buttons just because or acts like he has a huge chip on his shoulder or gets testy when anyone even comes close to contradicting his older brother Tom's teachings. More and more we get mature Benny who can think a situation through, keep his emotions in check, and be a real leader. Looking at how he acted in the first book, he's practically a different person. Nix has turned into quite the samurai warrior. She has seen a lot of pain and death. Despite and because of that, she chooses to fight with her sword to protect people even though it's horrible and unpleasant. She can't justify standing by and doing nothing. Her feelings for Benny have changed and she's not sure about them anymore. They are practically strangers to each other at this point because of their respective changes and they have to get reacquainted and see where they stand. Lila has reverted back to her very quiet, noncommunicative self. She's the only character who I thought had the least amount of change. Her character was harsh, sad, and angry, but that was pretty much it. She didn't have a lot going on outside of being sad and angry about Chong's semi-zombie condition. This was my only complaint about the novel.

Fire and Ash isn't all fuzzy and about relationships and feelings. The Night Church is a crazy organization with total human annihilation as their goal. They think further ahead than I thought possible and are quick and clever on top of being completely insane. These villains not only have desperate people who they would have otherwise killed on their side, but they herd and manipulate zombies to do their dirty work for them. As we saw at the end of the last book, the Night Church plan to attack Benny, Nix, and Chong's hometown in a huge assault of thousands of people and zombies. We see a new type of zombie in this installment, one that is super fast and strong, but dies out after a few weeks. I usually don't like fast zombies, but this actually makes sense and  One or two are fine to deal with, but a thousands of them are practically impossible to deal with. The stakes are the highest they have been. Benny and his friends have to decide if they will do anything to beat these zealots, even do some monstrous things.

I didn't realize before that all of Jonathan Maberry's zombie series culminate here. Dez Fox from Dead of Night is one of the Freedom Riders who carries her dead husband's zombified head in her bag. Sad, but it makes sense with her character that we saw in Dead of Night where the first outbreak happened. The disease is the same with the parasite reanimating dead flesh created by that crazed doctor. Joe Ledger is from a different action packed series where he fights international threats of all different kinds. He helps out Benny and his group immensely once he realizes (thanks to them) that keeping their organization secret from the public doesn't help anyone. I love how these seemingly disparate stories come together after already experiencing a taste of this world before the apocalypse happens. Now I have to reread the series now that I realize this and am familiar with the characters to see these connections in the earlier books.

Fire and Ash is a magnificent end to an exciting, emotional series. Everything ends pretty satisfyingly in unexpected ways. It's not without heartbreak or loss, but that's life. I found it realistic and well written. My only complaint is some of the characters' changes were a little too self aware, but it's written for a younger audience. I look forward to anything else Jonathan Maberry writes whether it's about zombies or not.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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