Published: August 2013
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Books
Copy: My own
Benny Imura and his friends have made it to Sanctuary, they've found the jet and they've discovered that civilization is struggling to regain its foothold in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. Scientists are on the verge of finding a cure for the zombie plague. It should be time for celebration, but it's not. Benny's best friend, Chong, has been infected by an arrow dipped in the flesh of a zombie and he hovers between life and death and Dr McReady, a researcher who may have the critical formula for a cure, has gone missing. So Benny convinces Captain Ledger to mount a search and rescue mission to find the doctor and help Chong. But with the Reapers still pursuing their plan to turn all zombies into super-fast shock troops even if they can save Chong, can they save themselves? In the fourth book of the thrilling and emotionally charged Rot & Ruin series, the battle to end all battles is about to begin...
I often find myself hesitating to read the last book in a series because I'm worried it won't live up to my expectations. Thankfully Fire and Ash was not one of them and it not only lived up to, but exceeded my expectations. I have enjoyed this series from the get-go. A lot of people question my comment about it being a marvellous coming-of-age story - 'Isn't it about zombies?' they ask. Yes it is about zombies, but, as I've said before, it is about so much more.
Mr. Maberry has given us a fantastic horror series, but at it's heart, is the growing up of its main characters. Benny, Chong, Nix and Lilah change and grow through each successive book, with Fire and Ash showing us what they will become as adults. The characters learn from situations and mistakes. They are willing to accept advice. They listen to, but also question authority - they do not follow blindly. This growth is never forced or clichéd. I found myself constantly going back to reread paragraphs, just because I like the way the words and the message are written.
' "I promise," he said
As he held her, Benny looked into that promise. It was a simple enough thing to say in the heat of heartbreak and tears. But he knew as he said it that this was going to mean more to him than anything else. Something shifted inside his head and his heart, like a switch being thrown on some machinery that had been carefully built but never turned on. He wasn't sure, then or ever, what powered that machinery. Maybe love, maybe hate, maybe a moral outrage so hot that it caused gears to turn and motors to combust.
There are such moments in a life. Solitary seconds on which the reality of what life means pivots and turns from a dead end toward a road of untrodden grass that stretches on forever. It was a moment in which the words he said aloud and the whispers of his inner voice spoke in perfect harmony. And Benny knew thereafter that he would never hear that inner voice as a thing separate from himself. It was as if he had caught up to the idealized version of himself that had always walked a pace or two ahead.
I promise, was what he said.
I will, was what he meant.' (p281)
Another of the things I loved about Fire and Ash was it's underlying message of hope. As bad as things get, Benny and the others never really give up. They get right to the edge sometimes, but are always willing to try just one more thing - especially when they are told not to.
' |For luck," he said.
"I know," she replied, smiling. "But we won't need it. We're going to get Chong, find Riot and Eve, and get out of here."
It was a strangely positive thing for her to say, but Benny saw no doubt in her eyes. She believed it.' (p381)
Captain Ledger is one of the many adult characters that can be found in the story and he too undergoes some 'aha' moments, which was nice. He also occasionally provides some humour
' "Should we split up?" asked Lilah. "I can-"
"Not a chance said Joe. "This isn't a bad horror movie. We stay together and we watch each other's backs. No one goes into the basement in a negligee to investigate a strange noise."
Lilah looked at him as if he was deranged. "What?"
"Nothing. Old pop-culture reference whose expiration date has apparently passed. Sad." '(p314)
I could go on and on quoting from this book, I think I had about 15 passages marked when I was finished, but the best thing you can do is go out and read it for yourself. Get past the covers, which I know have put some people off, and just enjoy the words. It\s a great story for boys - lots of violence and mayhem - but it as also a great story for anyone. It's exciting, frightening, violent, horrifying and out and out heart wrenching and I loved every minute of it's 2000 or so pages. This series has claimed top spot on my favourites list and I suspect it will be there for a while. Thank you Mr Mayberry for such an enjoyable reading experience.
In case you're interested check out my reviews on the previous three - Rot and Ruin, Dust and Decay and Flesh and Bone