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Wow! Wow! Wow! So much fun! 5 very enthusiastic stars for the audiobook as narrated by Bahni Turpin. (I alternated between the audio and Kindle versions.)
I'd been putting this book off for quite a while and boy, do I regret that! This is the second book I've read in as many months that follows a tough chick in an alternate timeline where something supernatural has altered American history. I'm not sure what that genre is called, but gimme more -- I love it! In Dread Nation, we're introduced to a world in which the Civil War was interrupted when the dead suddenly started acting decidedly very undead.
We follow Jane, a young woman born just days before the undead appeared, as she studies at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore. Her classes there teach her both fighting and etiquette skills as is required by the Native and Negro Reeducation Act. Most graduates of the school hope to be assigned as an Attendant to one of the rich white women, to act as a bodyguard-cum-chaperone. The alternative often means heading to the front lines to keep the shamblers (zombies/undead) at bay.
Although the shamblers (zombies/undead) are definitely very present in this story, instead of being the real focus, they act mostly as a vehicle to explain this alternate world and to add a bit of excitement here and there. Don't get me wrong, the battle scenes are definitely tons of fun, but this book has much deeper undertones than that.
It's not difficult at all to draw comparisons between the misguided morality, political shenanigans, and outright unabashed bigoted actions portrayed in this book with what's been increasingly in the public eye over the past few years. In fact, the scariest, tensest scenes in this book have nothing to do with shambler attacks and everything to do with how terribly cruel power-hungry humans can be.
I love the characters Justina Ireland has created here. Jane is snarky and strong, but never fell into the cliched "quirky talent always saves the day" role. She is definitely flawed, and does not escape her mistakes comeuppance-free. The supporting characters are mostly all very well fleshed out and believable. A couple of characters do, at times, seem a bit like caricatures, but that was very minor, and it's possible it was exacerbated by the narration.
Speaking of the narrator, now I get the Bahni Turpin love (I should never have doubted you, Erica!). Sign me up, I'm sold, and I'm diving into some other books she's narrated in the very near future.
I strongly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a rough-and-tumble action book with a snarky MC. I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel!
expected something camp; a quick, fun read. didn't expect to be absolutely blown away by the worldbuilding and loveable cast. it's set after the american civil war and there were many times i cringed or got angry at the blatant racism or the slurs used. but that was the point, i think. this book is written by a black woman and features a black woman as the mc. own voice. (i mention it here bc i had to look it up due to the use of the n-word, as was the terminology at the time; i just didn't feel comfortable seeing it used until verified that it was written by an african-american). i think the anger was worse bc i knew that was a reality many people had to live through. still live through. this and worse. but the book doesn't get preachy in any way. it is a fun, compelling, intriguing, occasionally angering (for a good cause) read. i was hoping for some wlw, but was happy to see aro-ace representation. in any case, excellent book. going to buy the sequel.
When I saw this book I was blown away by the cover. Then I read the summary and clicked buy ASAP! This was amazing steampunk version with zombies and the aftermath of the American Civil War. With a black girl as lead! The book held me fast and I kept reading until early in the morning. It was so believable that it gave me chills, especially when she described how former slaves or those of minority were used as canon fodder to fight zombies. It was heart breaking and I still loved the book. I really, really need a part two if this awesome heroine, Jane McKeene.
The freshest take on the undead historicals to date - I couldn't put this one down, and I daresay, given the circumstances and choices made, one of the most timely bits of fiction one could hasten to read. This is the first work of Ireland's I have experienced, and I hope far from the last. Jane McKeen's sharp turn of phrase and the rapidly unfolding apocalypse will pull you through a broken mirror reconstruction at breakneck speed, and as hungry for the next taste as a zombie is for brains.
I started Dread Nation earlier today and wasn’t able to put it down. The characters are intriguing, and the setting is terrifying, fascinating, and clearly exhaustively researched. Highly recommended for any SFF reader.
I bought this series on a whim, since I don't typically seek out post-Civil War America or Western books, but the premise and cover intrigued me. Now it has officially one of my favorite zombie books ever. The story is not only fun and filled with great characters, but it explores important themes that will stick with the reader long after they finish the book.
Jane is fantastic. There's no other way to say it. She's funny, strong, smart, takes no BS from anyone, and is ferocious in combat. She is definitely no saint and is a little judgmental about some of her fellow combatants, yet over time she grows and discovers more about herself, as well as those she keeps company with.
I also really grew to love Kate. Her entire character arc is both an emotional challenge and makes her both unique and in some aspects, tragic. So it's all the more inspiring when she uses different skills and her own wit to overcome circumstances.
The plot is kept relatively simple and straightforward--survive in a town full of cruel, incompetent men--though there are enough added mysteries and twists to keep it exciting. The action scenes can get really intense, though the last one seemed to move a little too quickly for me.
I had a great time reading this book. Ireland has incredible talent, completely falling into the perspective of Jane and making her characters seem like real people in terrible situations. This book hadn't really been on my radar before, but I absolutely recommend it to lovers of fantasy, the Old West, strong female characters, complex themes and friendships, and exceptional writing. This is a must have!
“There’s nothing white folks hate more than realizing they accidentally treated a Negro like a person.” Justina Ireland, Dread Nation
Set in America 5 to 10 years after the civil war, this story is filled with action and horror but much more compelling and beautiful is its raw humanity. Retelling the history of rampant oppression, racism, sexism and the other abhorrent behaviours of America’s shameful past, the author has successfully written a revisionist history with some zombies thrown in for good measure. And the main character, Jane, is exactly my kind of hero. Tough and yet compassionate, intelligent and yet impulsive, sarcastic and yet kind.
I loved everything about this book. The writing is excellent and the characters are fantastic. It’s only Justina Ireland’s debut novel, but if it is any indication of the depth of her talent, I can't wait to read the sequel.
- Looks like: a competent badass - Sounds like: shambler (zombie) groans and sword wielding - Tastes like: lemonade and gun powder - Smells like: prairie dust and death - Feels like: a story I would quickly die in
This is an alternate history full of sass and Shakespearean quips, despite the grim setting. Though there are zombies in this book, the humans in it are far more terrifying. It was especially satisfying to see terrible people get their comeuppance.