Dust Paperback – Oct 4 2011
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“MASSIVELY ENTERTAINING . . . Turner has created a new zombie mythology that is smart, scary and viscerally real.”—Booklist (starred review)
“SPECTACULAR . . . A great, unsettling portrait of raw hunger and hope.”—Jeff Long, New York Times bestselling author of The Descent
“AMAZING . . . Joan Frances Turner has done for zombies what Anne Rice did for vampires.”—Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Two Graves
“A TRULY ORIGINAL IDEA told from a viewpoint that will surprise and horrify.”—Laurell K. Hamilton, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels
“WELL WRITTEN . . . A new and unique take on zombies.”—Ilona Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of Steel’s Edge
About the Author
Joan Frances Turner was born in Rhode Island and grew up in the Calumet Region of northwest Indiana. A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, she lives near the Indiana Dunes with her family..See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
After I read the first chapter I realized that I wouldn't be eating any food while reading Dust. My roast beef sandwich just wasn't palatable after reading about these maggot-ridden zombies who shamble around spitting out black "coffin liquor" while losing body parts in the woods. I give author Joan Frances Turner an A for her vivid, stomach-churning descriptions, because when I'm reading a book about zombies, I want to be grossed out. It's par for the course.
Dust has an interesting premise. The zombies in Ms. Turner's vision retain enough of their humanity to socialize, communicate, and enjoy their undead life, but their hunger instincts eliminate any compassion they might feel for the humans and animals they eat. Zombies can live for centuries, and they communicate via a sort of telepathy, since lips, throats and tongues start to decay soon after death. I can't say I've encountered this kind of zombie before, and I was able to suspend my disbelief for the most part and revel in their disgusting nature. They didn't win my heart, which is kind of a shame since they are "humanized" zombies, but I was rooting for them by the end. The humans themselves didn't elicit any of my sympathy, strangely enough.
The plot unfolds with a series of small, seemingly unconnected events, and by the end there's a full-on plague that practically wipes out life on Earth. I thought it was over several times, but there were more and more pages to read, so I was impressed at how it kept twisting and turning toward its conclusion. Unfortunately the pacing is a little hampered by dreams, flashbacks, and existential passages that made for slow reading at times, but it did build up into something that was exciting to read.
Jessie remembers having to crawl to the surface of her grave. Somehow she had become a zombie. She wasn't bothered by her stink but was consumed with hunger and drawn to the scent of a rabbit in the cemetery.
Jessie joins a group of zombies, the Fly-by-Nights. Unlike traditional zombies, the mutated beings had human traits. Florian was ancient and philosophical, Teresa is the pack leader and is territorial and demonstrates jealousy of Jessie.
When Jessie meets Joe, she describes him "The...right side of his face was smashed in..crushed cheekbone...maggots seethed from every pore."
It demands certain discipline for the uniniated to read a zombie story. I was constantly grossed out as, at one point a large beetle emerged from one zombie who made the transition from a bloater to a breeder.
A new illness is discovered which causes the undead beings to grow new skin and muscles and become more lifelike. At the same time, humans or hoos become near death and often wish to be killed.
The story continues with groups attempting to gain power but this illness seems like an epidemic and the reader must learn the effect on both groups.
Jessie and Florian are unique characters and the novel gets a good mark for originality and the telling of a tale. I did think that the novel was too long in developing the main part of the story and could have been condensed.
_Dust_'s greatest strength -- and also its greatest drawback -- is that Joan Frances Turner writes description extremely well. She has the gift of evoking that one perfect image that puts you right there in the character's mind: a dimly remembered strawberry, or a lost connection described as:
"a light shining from a farmhouse window on some dark, empty highway, streaking brightly across your windshield as you drive past, and then fading. And then gone."
It becomes a drawback when Turner conjures up, with the same skill, the imagery of human decomposition. Readers with cast iron stomachs may not mind, but many others will feel physically ill throughout much of _Dust_. It was a little too much for me, I confess.
Turner's undead, who prefer not to be called zombies, are sentient and have an entire culture of their own. They communicate via radio waves when their mouths and throats can no longer form words. They have their own life cycle, starting when they tunnel up from the grave, continuing through the stages of decomposition, then culminating in a second death. It's easy to feel pity for the undead, who retain their mental and emotional capacities but whose bodies are rotting and whose loved ones feel nothing but revulsion if they meet again. Yet this thinking is something of a trap, it turns out; many of the undead are content with their lot and don't want their old lives back, and one human goes to appalling extremes in an attempt to "fix" someone who doesn't want to be fixed.
_Dust_ contains plenty of thought-provoking material, echoing several real-life controversies while (thankfully) not paralleling any one issue so closely that the book becomes a polemic. The thought-provoking elements, however, are drowned out during the first half of the book by the nauseating descriptions and by too much senseless violence. The heroine, Jessie, is in a gang, and she and her friends are constantly involved in bullying, gang hazing, intergang turf wars, and the like. I could, in a way, understand the frustrations that fueled the aggression, but I still had trouble liking the characters. The grossness hampered my experience, too, by causing me to read less closely than I should have been reading. Turner doesn't spoon-feed anything. Many of the character conflicts are implied between the lines, and the world-building is subtle. For example, it's clear that Turner's world is not quite the world we know, but we're not explicitly told when and where the divergence took place (by which I mean "when did humans become aware of zombies," not the event in the geological past). If you "step back" from the story because it's about to make you lose your lunch, you may miss something important in the process.
At about the halfway point, _Dust_ really sank its teeth in, pardon the bad pun. I don't want to spoil the plot twists, but I'll say that the gang warfare largely falls away in favor of science-gone-wrong and beautifully written musings on the nature of life and death, family and friendship. There's still plenty of unpleasant imagery; this is easier to take, though, once the plot starts moving more quickly and the characters become more fleshed-out, plus now the icky moments are interspersed with passages of lovely prose like the one quoted above. Jessie's plot arc is compelling, and so are the little glimpses Turner gives us of the world outside Jessie's immediate frame of reference. So much can be conveyed by a brief mention of a skyline looking wrong.
I closed _Dust_ with a feeling of satisfaction and an appreciation for Turner's craft. It would be inaccurate, though, to claim that I enjoyed the book all the way through, hence the rating. Dust is worth reading (especially the second half), but to get to the best parts you'll have to go through a lot of stomach-turning imagery. Your mileage may vary.
DUST takes an intriguing approach to zombies, making them sentient beings who survive in small gangs. Humans, called the derogatory term of hoos, are the evil ones. Jessie finds herself caught in between worlds, between her new family and the world of the hoos she left nine years ago when the car crash killed her the first time. The conflict is well done as Joan Frances Turner puts a different perspective on zombie society as a whole. The concept of the music and the dances is particularly fascinating, although I'd have liked just a bit more explanation about it.
DUST is as gory as one would expect, perhaps even more so. I'm fairly immune to most horror novels but this one had me a bit queasy with some of the descriptions involving the bugs. The beginning is a bit slow, focusing more on the zombies with all their gruesome feedings. However, these aspects are necessary as it sets the stage for how much things are about to change. Once the story really kicks in, DUST is hard to put down!
Joan Frances Turner does a marvelous job at creating multidimensional characters. Be forewarned- there are no real good or bad guys in DUST. Instead, there are characters who make choices, sometimes well intentioned, that can cause quite a few unintended consequences. It's hard not to like Jessie, though, for her sheer determination to keep going even when it flies in the face of all logic.
DUST is a phenomenal entry into the zombie literature! Joan Frances Turner creates a world that is both frightening and grisly while creating characters that pull the reader into the storyline. Enjoyable for fans of zombie books who want something just a bit different.
While this is not a really gory book by modern zombie standards (dismemberment is rare) it is not for the faint of heart. The heroine is falling apart (literally) and she deals with the undead who are putrefying and are chronically infested with bugs. Some sections will leave you applauding for the excellent grossness and going to get a can of Raid.
While I love this book it is not without flaws. The descriptions of the zombies communicating telepathically with musical overtones and the group dancing is really distracting and pulled me away from the flow of the text in a couple places.
Even with the weaknesses this book is exceptionally hard to put down and a truly excellent nightmarish adventure.