V.G. Grace's Reviews > Dust

Dust by Joan Frances Turner
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Jul 21, 12

Read from July 17 to 20, 2012

Usually, in stories about zombies a.k.a. "the living dead", the perspective is told from the terrified survivors, perpetually on the run. All of the reader's sympathies and emotions lay with the humans escaping from shambling corpses at the least or vicious mutants at worst.

In Joan Frances Turner's epic novel "Dust", this is flipped on its head and the story is almost solely told from the zombies' point of view.

The story begins with the daily existence of the protagonist, a young girl called Jessie who has been dead for the past nine years but at the same time, very much alive. You see, in this universe, zombies have become a known aspect of society, rising from the dead at periodic intervals throughout history and causing society to adapt but continue a relatively normal existence.

The wealthier citizens have gates around their communities while the poor are left to fend for themselves the best way they can. Surprisingly enough, what becomes the biggest threat to the continuation of society is not the zombies but the actions of a fanatical scientist who because of his connection to Jessie, causes a cataclysmic plague to befall the living.

Jessie has adapted herself to her 'living dead' existence. She is a part of a gang of fellow zombies who reside in wooded areas and predominately stick to animal flesh. She has chosen this way of 'life' as opposed to the actions of more violent gangs who hunt down humans--perhaps because there is a lingering sense of humanity remaining within her conscious along with the memories of her family.

Major trouble arises early in the novel when she and another zombie, an antiquated skeletal figure who is the oldest amongst the group, 'Florian', encounter a frantically sick woman with a blue tinge to her skin who is neither completely zombie or completely human. This woman bites into a living squirrel but recoils in horror at her actions.

Soon, Jessie finds changes happening within her own circle--at first, the odor of certain zombies changing into something foreign and strange, then a regaining of strength and most shockingly, their flesh returning.

As Jessie is thrown into a weird new world where zombie becomes human and human becomes zombie, she struggles to find answers and encounters a sickness that ravages both worlds.

I liked the concept of Turner's novel, particularly the unique aspect of telling the story from a zombie's perspective and I found the nature of this apocalyptic illness highly disturbing in an almost visceral sense. The characterizations were excellently written and fully third-dimensional--my particular favorite was the wise old zombie, Florian, and his tales of his life centuries ago.

However, what I felt detracted from the overall punch of the novel was towards the end where I felt that the plot became increasingly confusing and convoluted.

But in the end, I would say it was a flawed but highly original concept.
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