Nine years ago, Jessie was in a fatal car crash and reanimated as a zombie. Zombies have always hunted the living and their numbers have swelled by the time of Jessie's death. She discovers that rather than being mindless killers intent on flesh, they retain their memories and band together in gangs to protect themselves against the few remaining humans and other zombies.
Jessie's in the Fly-by-Nights. Her boyfriend, Joe, wants to protect her from their bullying leader, Teresa, but who ultimately lacks the courage to do so. Times are tough for the gang. With the dead outnumbering the living, food is getting scarce and when Jessie loses her arm in a hunt, her ability to fight is severely hampered. Worse, a new sickness is beginning to cutting through the dead. It affects their ability to eat, leaving them weak and more vulnerable to attacks from other zombies. When the disease hits the Fly-by-Nights, Jessie finds that everything she holds dear is at risk, even her own life ...
Joan Frances Turner has created a clever and thoughtful take on zombie mythology in a horror novel with strong themes of life, friendship and regret.
Jessie has a strong first person voice. Resurrected aged of 15, it's only in death that she comes of age, finding love, learning the value of friendship and questioning her leaders. This works particularly well in her relationship with Joe, who takes her under his wing and shows her the ropes and while they love each other, she slowly becomes aware of his weaknesses and particularly his cowardice when put under threat. I also enjoyed her relationship with Fabian, a zombie who was alive during the American Civil War and who serves as something of a mentor to her, keeping alive zombie traditions and history.
The zombie mythology is carefully constructed and I enjoyed the social structures that Turner creates - particularly the focus on violence, their need to hunt and the competition that exists between different gangs. The sickness storyline was less satisfying for me, mainly because the way it tacked in with Jessie's family felt both contrived and telegraphed but also because the additional theme of transformation didn't resonate with me.
All in all, this was a satisfying zombie read that should appeal to anyone who also enjoyed WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion, given its approach to zombie development and organisation.
Free review copy from Penguin.
on 13 January 2013
I love zombie moves and books, something about the undead really freaks me out, so when Dust was recommended to me I had to check it out, as the role reversal, the main character being the zombie, was too strange not to investigate. The approach to zombie dialogue is unique, and the complexity of how they react to each other surprised me as I went in expecting very little in the way of any intelligence. At first I was slightly put off by the idea, but was there any other way to really go about it?
The books plot takes some time to kick off, but surprisingly the initial first few chapters were both my favorite but also my slowest chapters to read through as for me the story takes a very unique twist which I could never have anticipated in a hundred years, not to say that it was bad, but so jarringly unexpected for me it hurt my score hence the four stars, otherwise this one could have taken five very easily, at the very least I highly suggest picking it up, and I would certainly read more in the Zombie PoV area.