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Zombie Apocalypse Book Series: The Enemy vs Rot & Ruin
Popular zombie series for teens
The Enemy and Rot & Ruin are two popular zombie apocalypse book series marketed for young adults. The Enemy is by well-known author Charlie Higson and Rot & Ruin is by another popular author, Jonathan Maberry. Both series have several things in common and yet are fundamentally different.
Similarities between the series
Both authors of these zombie apocalypse series have targeted the same audience, teenagers or young adults. The main characters of both series are teenagers under age 16. In The Enemy, all the characters are under 15 because anyone older than that has either died or become a zombie. In Rot & Ruin, the story line centers around 15 year-old Benny Imura and his friends. Although there are several adult characters also involved in the plot lines, the teens still take the main stage.
The zombies from both books also share some very obvious characteristics. Zombies, as you might expect, all have an insatiable appetites for live flesh. The zombies in The Enemy only target children, because that is the only "live" or healthy flesh available. Rot & Ruin zombies will feed on anyone alive. But once you are bitten, you transform to a zombie very quickly and then you are no longer an "acceptable" meal to the discerning taste buds of the zoms.
Another similarity in the plot lines is the absence of an explanation as to what caused the zombie outbreak. Neither author explains why or how the zombies came about. Both books suggest scenarios that would involve some type of environmental element being involved. In The Enemy, its seems more like an infection or epidemic. However, since it doesn't affect anyone under the age of 15, there seems to be something possibly linked to the environment. In the Benny Imura series, there is even less explanation as to what caused the outbreak. You might believe it is an infection of some sort because whoever is bitten by a zombie will always become a zombie themselves. The environmental link here is that ANYONE who dies, will come back as a zombie. Even if you have no contact and die of completely natural causes, when you die you will come back as a zombie. The teens in both series are struggling for survival and trying to figure out what caused the zombie apocalypse. Perhaps by the conclusion of both series, we will have been given the explanations as to the source of the zombie outbreak.
Another common theme in both series is that zombies are not necessarily the only thing to fear. In both scenarios, civilization as we now know it has collapsed. There is no real justice system or authority. Children and adults both struggle to survive and some people behave much less "humanely" than others.
Differences between the series
Although both zombie series are written for the same audience, they each have very unique plot lines and their "apocalyptic" societies are very different.
The fact that there are no unaffected adults in The Enemy, means that all that is left of society are children under the age of 15. They still form their own "camps" and gangs, but they are made entirely of kids. It's a bit like Lord of the Flies, only instead of wild pigs, they have to fight off adults who want to eat them! The R&R series takes place 14 years after the zombie apocalypse and a new society has formed behind the safety of fences. They have the advantage of having adults to help form the rules and laws of the surviving human population.
In The Enemy the zombies need to eat live flesh to survive. Without the flesh, they become weaker and weaker, their flesh decomposing rapidly with exposure to the sun. If they eat, they become stronger and smarter. In the Rot & Ruin series, the zombies seemingly never decompose or starve, staying in an almost comatose trance for years--unless the smell of human flesh crosses their path.
The zombies also seem to be much more intelligent in the Enemy series. They can move faster and they can "think", able to catch their prey like hunters. In the R&R series, the zombies are very slow and mindless. They can't open doors or climb and seem to have no thoughts whatsoever.
Which series is better?
In my opinion, the biggest difference between the two series is the style of writing and the author's viewpoints. The books written by author Charlie Higson were written for a young audience, but he doesn't seem to have any issues describing and sharing the very harsh "reality" of children left alone without the support of adults. The stories are told through the eyes of literally dozens of different characters, any of which can perish at any time in the book. The children die from not only zombies, but also illnesses, accidents, starvation, fighting, and a host of other problems. It allows the reader to feel the sense of terror these children must be going through, because there is no main character who is "off-limits" from being the next victim of the zombie apocalypse.
Author Jonathan Maberry also has written for the same young adult audience and he describes much of the same horrors, but in a more abstract way. The first book takes place 14 years after "First Night", when the outbreak began. The main character Benny Imura was only 18 months old, so he has grown up in this post-apocalyptic society. The main dangers for them exist only if they chose to leave the safe boundaries of the civilized towns and go beyond the fences into the Rot and Ruin. Benny and his friends do go out into the Rot and Ruin, and are faced with lots of horrifying zombies and evil men (who are way more inhumane than the zombies). But, seemingly against all odds, they never seem to die. They are hunted by men and zombies, beaten, stabbed, and shot--but all of the children seem to somehow survive the horrors.
In my opinion, both series are worth the read. I think each of them have interesting stories and plots that have yet to be settled. Being a bit more of a realist, I prefer the Enemy series--as does my teenage son. Some younger children (and probably even some adults) might prefer the slightly "safer" series Rot & Ruin. Both books still contain plenty of violence and death!