America is now referred to as the Rot and Ruin. “Since First Night [fourteen years ago], anyone who die[s will] reanimate as a zombie. Bites [make] it happen too, but really any recently deceased person [will] come back.” “[N]o one [knows] for sure what actually happened. Some sources [say] it was a virus that was mutated by radiation from a returning space probe. Others [say] it was a new type of flu that came over from China. [Others believe] it was something that got out of a lab somewhere. The only thing everyone [agrees] on was that it was a disease of some kind.”
Against the mountains in California is a fenced-in community called Mountainside. One of the rules in Mountainside is that you have to take a job when you turn fifteen years old or your food rations will be cut in half. Benny Imura is running out of time to find a job. He does not want to go into the family business and become a bounty hunter. Benny’s older brother, Tom, is known as one of the toughest bounty hunters. Typical bounty hunters clear the areas around the trade route to other towns. Some packs of mercenary armies clear out towns, shopping malls, warehouses and small cities so traders can raid for supplies. Mountainside has ‘become an agricultural society. No one’s made much of an effort to restart industry, and people seem to think that [they] can salvage forever for almost everything [they] need…It’s a pillage-and-plunder mentality, and it makes [them] scavengers.”
Some jobs Benny tries out include: locksmith, fence tester, fence technician, carpet coat salesman, pit thrower, ash soaker, pit raker, crank generator repair man, spotter, bottler and erosion artist. But Benny cannot and will not do any of the available jobs. Reluctantly, Benny breaks down and tells his brother that he will be Tom’s apprentice as a bounty hunter.
Tom, as a bounty hunter, specializes in “closure jobs – locating a zombified family member or friend for a client and putting them to final rest.” It is called ‘quieting’ – “the necessary act of inserting a metal spike, called a ‘sliver’, into the base of the skull to sever the brain stem.” Benny does not understand why Tom will not just wipe every zombie out. Instead, Tom ties up the loved one for safety and sits them at their kitchen table. Then he reads a letter, out loud, from the client to the loved one. After, he severs the brain stem and lays their head on the table and holding the letter in their hands. During their journey in the Ruin, Tom tries to instill the value of a person into Benny, even if that person is the living dead.
I GIVE THIS BOOK:
“The world is bigger and harder to understand than you think…It was before First Night and it still is now. You have to keep your mind as wide-open as your eyes, because almost nothing is what it seems.”
For a fifteen year old boy that has lived his entire life in a fenced-in community, that is a tough lesson to grasp. There is a naive innocence inside the fence. While people can see zombies shuffling around on the other side of the fence, the residents of Mountainside never talk about them or anything that happens out in the Ruins. What they do not see will not hurt them.
So when there are multiple murders inside the fence, the community is quick to blame when the evidence leads outside the fence. No one wants to track leads and murderers out it the Ruins. Since the murdered residents turned into zombies and then purposely set out to kill Tom, only Tom and Benny have the courage to cross the fence line, find the killers and seek justice.
In the days that follow, Benny learns more about Tom, the history of First Night and why Tom does not kill random zombies. Everything Benny has thought and felt for the last fourteen years is not quite how he remembers it. While Benny fights to stay alive, he also fights the demons in his past.
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Until next time, live life one page at a time!