Review; “Dread Nation” by Justina Ireland

Disclosure: This book was provided to me by Edelweiss free of charge in return for an honest and unbiased review. This book is scheduled to be released on April 03, 2018 by Balzer + Bray.

Can I just confess to you how much I love this cover.  I might be the only one who does this, but sometimes when I’m reading a book and it starts describing the main character, I will flip back and forth between the description and the cover just to see how on-point it is.  Needless to say, I’m usually disappointed.

Scoff.  She’s supposed to be a brunette not a blonde!  And why the hell is she walking a runway when it’s YA dystopian fantasy (Yeah, I’m looking at and judging you “Shattered”).  UGGGGH.  Slight temper tantrum ensues (And, yes, my tantrums do resemble those of Lucy from The Peanuts because I know that you were just dying to ask).

But look at this cover.  It is glorious!  It has everything I could ever possibly want in a cover:  A striking, badass female wielding a blood covered sickle to behead zombies with; an American flag, because America; plaited hair and a fetching old-timey dress, you know, because the book is historical* (I have an amusing story related to this.  Read on if you’d like to hear it).  Anyways, I love it!  The book itself?  Well I kind of loved it too.

“Dread Nation” is a pretty straight-forward zombie book, and if you like that sort of thing than you’re probably going to love it.  What sets it apart from other books in the genre, however, is its setting and its main character.  “Dread Nation” takes place in the Reconstruction Era of America, except in Justina Ireland’s alternate version, the Civil War is interrupted when the dead littering the battlefields begin to rise.  As a result, and because the war was not technically completed, the state of America is in limbo.  Slavery is made illegal, but it’s more so due to the fact that America has a different need for its African American population rather than because it’s the right thing to do.

Therefore, As part of the Negro Reeducation Act, African American children are plucked from their homes and sent to combat schools in order to learn how to combat Shambler (a.k.a. Zombie) hordes.  Our protagonist, Jane McKeene is training to become one of these Attendants, basically a bodyguard with manners for rich white folks.  But let’s be real, it’s pretty much slavery with a new name.  Jane is not free and, when it comes down to it, her life is viewed as disposable – as are the lives of the countless other African Americans and Native Americans being used to thin out the Shamblers and to protect the white and wealthy.

The strongest draw for “Dread Nation” is that it covers an imperative period in America’s history while still managing to remain action-packed and, dare I say, fun.  I also really enjoyed Jane.  She is smart and a smart-ass and I appreciate these qualities in all of my main characters.  All of the characters were fantastic, really.

One drawback for me is that the book maybe wasn’t alternate history enough for me.  It feels as if Ireland selected a segment from American history and just added zombies.  This is fine, really, but I can’t help but feel as if there would be even more changes and distortions to the history given that the dead have begun to rise and eat peoples’ faces off.  In some ways, it didn’t feel historical enough though.  Meh.  Maybe it’s just me being wishy-washy!  I’ll have to get back to you on that one!

My other issue is that, overall, the book feels incomplete.  Characters disappear (Gideon) and the book leaves the reader with cliffhanger.  I realize that this is only the first book in what I am assuming to be a trilogy, however, it’s nice when authors give readers even the illusion of a conclusion.

So if you enjoy zombie books make sure to check out “Dread Nation”.  I know that I will be picking up the second installment as soon as it becomes available!


*You lovely readers might already be aware that I work at a library.  I love my job and, for the most part, it is very rewarding.  Like most jobs, however, there are days that like to try to break me.  The universe, being the dick that it kind of is, is like “Hehe.  Watch this” and then proceeds to throw some shit my way while it sits back on the couch with it’s legs propped up on the coffee table (I warned you that the Universe was a dick) tossing popcorn back into it’s massive gullet the whole while.  For the most part, I am a roll with the punches kind of person.  But every so often on one of those days, it’s easier to throw my hands up in the air and just be like, “Well eff it.  Humanity is screwed.”

The following is one of those days:

The year was 2012.  The library where I worked had just received DVD copies of “Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter” so it was making the rounds throughout our regular customers.  An middle-aged woman returning her copy hands it over to me and says, “This movie was so good!  I didn’t realize that Abraham Lincoln had done all of that!”

I blink.  “All of what?”

“You know, hunt vampires!”

I don’t think I responded.  Knowing me, I laughed nervously and said “Yeahhhh…” in an unusually high-pitched, uncomfortable voice.  The first time, I was too stunned to correct the customer.  That’s right.  I said the first time.  Wouldn’t you know that I had not one, not two, but three customers on three separate occasions who were convinced that “Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter” was based on historical fact.  I thought I was being Punk’d except that Ashton Kutcher was nowhere to be found.  Finally, with the last guy, a young gentleman in his early twenties, I broke.

“You know that vampires aren’t real, right?  Like, Abraham Lincoln didn’t fight vampires because they don’t exist.  I mean, Abraham Lincoln is a real person but this movie is fiction.  Make-believe.”  I felt like Nesmith trying to explain to Mathesar the intricacies of television.  Well, lesson learned because I then got roped into an hour long debate about the existence of vampires.  Sometimes it really is just better to smiled and nod.

So.  Historical Fiction can be fun am I right?


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