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Dread Nation is an interesting and good read. Though, it didn't really start until after around page 170. I almost DNF-ed this book because the first hundred pages or so were pretty boring and really dragged down the story. But once you hit part two, it's hard to put down the book. I think a strong point of this book are the characters. Jane and Katherine really complimented and played off each other, whether it be Jane being brash and Katherine being polite or Katherine being too cautious and Jane diving in headfirst. I didn't like Jackson that much, he was kinda just there but the rest of the side characters like Gideon I liked. The characters kept me reading when the plot wasn't.
Dread Nation was an interesting read that touched upon hard subjects such as racism and colonialism in a thought-provoking way while still being entertaining. I'm also 90% sure that there is a Bi character as well as an Ace (maybe Aro too?) character which I thought was very cool. It kinda helped drive home that these identities have been around for a long time and aren't something "New".
I'd definitely suggest you check it out if you're a historical fiction fan, a zombie fan, you like strong well-written female leads, or all of the above.
“Dread Nation” by Justina Ireland is set in 1880. The Civil War ended during the battle of Gettysburg when the dead rose and killed the living. The plague of the undead has spread across the country. Jane, a mixed-race plantation child, is now a young woman attending a prestigious combat school outside Baltimore, where she is being trained to protect white women’s virtues and lives. She has it better than most Black and Native Americans. Slavery is legally ended, but they are sent to combat schools that teach them just enough, then send them out to die protecting white cities. Jane has a “fine” future ahead of her as an Attendant until she stumbles on the truth about the safety of the cities and is sent West to a compound run by whites looking to bring reestablish the ways of the old South as the new law of the land for the US. She must battle the strangle hold of a racist preacher and his equally racist and even more ruthless son, the Sherriff, even as the safety of their “Utopia” is crumbling under the growing zombie menace. This is a great action, zombie, historical fiction. I really enjoyed it.
Reconstruction, zombies, and mysterious happenings? YES. Looking forward to diving into the sequel soon.
There was something about this that was simultaneously SO addictive while also being a scathing, timely critique of so many things.
Jane McKeene lives in an alternate timeline where the Battle of Gettysburg wasn't decided by soldiers, but instead, it was zombies that turned the tides. The dead walk the streets of Baltimore, where Jane goes to a combat school specifically for black girls, in an attempt to train them to attend to the white women of America. Though this is supposed to be a time where the races are "equal", according to the decisions made after the war, nothing has truly changed; Jane is at the top of her class, a vicious harvester of the undead, but she knows what white people think of her. Katherine, her somewhat grudging friend, is white-passing, and what that means in comparison to Jane's own skin is explored as the girls navigate the treachery and ruthlessness of a white man's America - and kill some zombies along the way.
This was one hell of a ride. I enjoyed literally every second of it, and there were so many reasons for that.
Jane McKeene tops that list. She's such a badass while also having that side of her that, beneath the hardening that she's had to do to survive, is just so lovable. She's so worthy of the word "complex". With such a strong supporting cast, including Katherine and Jackson, she fights for what she believes in just as ruthlessly as the men and women who stand against her, and I absolutely loved her zeal and her spunk. The way she could slip in and out of colloquial language and just completely outfoxed these men who thought they were better than her just made me cackle and appreciate her so much.
Many of the rest of the characters were the kinds that you just love to hate. They think in such a drastic, backwards way, and I think part of why the book as a whole was so successful at what it does is because Justina does not shy away from the derogatory language to make any of it more palatable. Labelling black people as "darkies" is one that stood out for me, and though it makes me uncomfortable, I think that's so good. We need these own voices stories that refuse to shy away from the hard truths. Because let's face it, we have men like these in power right now. And now is not the time to just not include these vicious details because they make people uncomfortable.
In particular, the integration of the Native American schools is one that rings especially important for me. We have a similar legacy in Canada with residential schools, and I feel like we do a decent job of educating our kids about it in the school system. I don't know whether that's the case in America, and including those details and basing the combat schools off of a system that was very real and very brutal lends it all an air of truth that really hit home. There are just so many dimensions of marginalization that so many people don't realize.
Justina's crafting of 19th century America paints such a brutal picture of what it was like that I don't have anything to critique. I felt like I was there; I could taste the dust in Kansas, feel the sweat dripping down Jane's back, hear the sound of the saloon doors creaking open. Baltimore was just as well-written. Somehow, Justina brought me back in time, and I feel like that is a solid combination of research and talent that just came together in the perfect storm for this novel.
I just feel like this is the time for the marginalized voices of the past and the present to be heard. This kind of novel just emanates so much strength and anger and it's so necessary given the world we live in and the things that black women, Native American women, women of all colour still go through. It's worth getting angry over, and I hope that everyone reads the books that these women put out there. This one is absolutely worthy of the hype.
In this alternate history novel, Ireland tackles the question - what would have happened if the Civil War had been interrupted by zombies?
This book is actually a “classic” to me. It shines a light on all the major issues that we still face today. Racism and the struggles that America faces are the deepest tones that root this story in place.
I don’t know why I didn’t get it in when I first saw it. Maybe because it didn’t have any romance, but I misjudged this book. I actually want to go back to that moment where I was standing at the bookshelf, where the book was resting and grab it off the shelf and swipe my credit card with a feeling of satisfaction.
But then I was lucky to find this miracle at the library and when I saw it,I checked it out and read it. And it was a journey I tell you. I felt like I was lost in my own adventure with zombies and a trio of cool people witnessing the fall of a nation all while growing in different ways.
And I recently decided to read this for the second time, and I did not regret it at all. He action popped out to me, and way Jung the action unfold again was fun. I didn’t really think that I would want to take the time to do this task. But,the magic was still there and it was like visiting an old friend. I also love the book cover. Cool much?
So what’s the book about? Well,it follows seventeen year old Jane Mckeene who attends a combat school to learn to put down the dead. The book is pretty gory with descriptions of dead bodies and fighting, so I say this is probably for thirteen year olds. I loved seeing Jane and her her relationships with other characters develop. Her character was relatable and I rooted her in throughout the whole story.
And so...is it worth reading? Yes, but it also it depends on your taste? Do you want to read young adult novels and historical dramas? Up for fighting and blood? If not, step away. I am hesitant on the second book, because I though they return the magic to the book cover. I am still excited though. So yes, give this a try. Who knows, you might like it. Frankly though, this book deserves credit.
If you liked The Walking Dead, Dread Nation will bring you joy...so much joy, and a lot more zombies, along with two amazing heroines. The sequel, Deathless Divide, just came out.
Chapter 1: In which I tell everyone to read this book.
Read this book.
P.S. If you need more details, keep reading. If you're already convinced, stop reading this and read the book 🙂 Or listen, actually, yes. Listen to the audiobook because Bahni Turpin is my FAVOURITE! You know, in case you haven't noticed from my other reviews.
Normally, I am not a fan of anything zombie related. I made an exception for this outstanding alternative history novel which I recently read for the second time. It was just as good!
Justina Ireland has created a world where the dead rise up after the civil war and schools are created according to the fictional "Native and Negro Education Act." At one of these schools, we meet Jane and Katherine who can best be described as "frenemies." Both are fierce and forceful in their own ways with interesting secrets and stories that keep them motivated. Although Dread Nation seems like it is set more than one hundred years ago, many of the issues still plague us today. This young adult novel offers striking social commentary that is as relevant as it is disturbing. It also contains some laugh out loud moments. Now is a particularly good time to read it because book two was just released. I mean, how can you not love a book that begins with the phrase "In which I am born and someone tries to murder me." Talk about a good hook!!!
Chapter 2: In which I assume you are now putting this book on hold.
Interesting re-imagining of a US Civil War brought to a close not by the laying down of arms but by the rising up of the undead! But as the North and the South came together to fight against this plague, less savory impulses also rise to push the country back. Thankfully, Jane McKeene and her compatriots have just the tools to deal with this evil. Now all she needs is a good whetstone.
As someone who’s always been “meh” about zombie stories, this book absolutely made me want to read or watch ALL OF THEM. Ideally they’d all be written by Ireland, but her thoughtfulness and precision about the precise fears and politics that go into those fears that zombies bring up finally got me to understand why culturally we’re obsessed with them. She also incorporates race and gender in a way that’s palpable in the plot and the dialogue and choices of the characters. This is a fairly thick book, but it’s a quick read; I read almost all of it in one day.
There was quite a lot of hype for this book. I finally picked it up, and feel kind of meh. I was expecting quite a bit more from a book set post-Civil War that only ended because zombies started rising. I *may* try book 2, or just find spoilers somewhere, to see if this world develops better, but I also may not actively search it out or wait with bated breath. One very large annoyance for me: "bobbed wire." My dude.. it's BARBED wire..
I cannot for the life of me remember how this book came to be on my to-read list, but after reading it, I am so, so glad that it did. There is so much to like about this fantastic blending of genres, and I had such a blast reading it.
When I first started reading this, I was reminded of 'Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies', but Justina Ireland wrote an even better story than that twist on the classic Jane Austen novel. She takes the world of 19th century, post-Civil War America with all of its many prejudices, racism, and general imperfections, adds zombies on top of that, and then lets the ripples go where they may. And it was amazing.
Jane and Katherine are a pair of absolutely amazing leads. I loved learning about their lives and just who they are as people. I particularly love how nuanced they both are, with Jane being bisexual and Katherine closer to the asexual part of the spectrum. It really gives them a unique flair, particularly in a setting such as this one. It adds some really great flavor to both characters, and allows them to stand out from the many heroines of such stories.
An absolute delight to read for any fan of horror, historical fiction, or both.
i am halfway through the book so this is not a review.
i am the person that looks at the genre and if it includes YA fantasy, im gonna read it. saying this, i thought this book was gonna be about pirates for some reason. it is in fact, not about pirates.
cool storyline though, really enjoying these characters.
Alternate history for the post-Civil War era with ZOMBIES! Great, high energy action sequences, spot on social commentary, and well-drawn characters. The ending left plenty of room for a sequel, with lots of dangling threads undone.
Let’s just start off by saying that this book meshes alternative history with Horror, and I just love it. It’s kind of why I love Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
We are dropped off into the beginnings of the United States Civil War. The Civil War is interrupted by a startling event...the Dead begin to rise. As the US has to decide it’s prioritize it’s disdain for race or the Undead, a true champion arises. Jane McKeene is a warrior in it’s truest form. She was raised with other girls at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls in both weaponry and etiquette . She’s an expert with a scythe and smarter than the people who want to keep their bigger societal secret. Look out for book #2 Coming Soon!
A Great Books for Great Kids pick. Alternate history takes a zombie-like spin in this Civil War novel where African-Americans and Native Americans must train to fight the undead. This horror story will be enjoyed by older readers who are unafraid of the undead!
As an avid reader of zombie books, I was very excited to get my hands on Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. However, I was completely unprepared for this engaging alt-history where the Civil War came to an end due to zombies - or shamblers as they are called in this book - rising and quickly taking over the South. The freed slaves are sent to combat training schools along with Native Americans to learn the skills needed to put the undead to rest. Two main heroines keep the action and banter going as they use scythes, guns, and sickles to deftly put the undead down. Jane McKeene, a biracial teen, and her school mate, Katherine, often mistaken for being white, struggle with racism and homesickness as they are educated at Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore, but matters take an even worse turn when they accidentally stumble upon the corrupt mayor's plans and end up at a Kansas outpost called Summerland - an outpost that has many secrets the least of which is that it is in danger of being overrun by the shamblers. Differences in treatment of due to class, race, or nepotism make this a great book to discuss in book clubs or school.
This would have been a more solid story if Ireland had a better editor.
The "War between the States" has been interrupted by a zombie apocalypse. Now, blacks are utilized not just for plantation work and as servants, but as trainable militia to be the first line of defense against the undead, in protection of whites. "Clearly", it's crucial that armed and weapons-proficient black people know their place in life; that they are inferior, as deemed by God. Jane, the mixed-race daughter of a plantation owner, is being trained to be a Attendant, hoping to be hired by a wealthy woman to become her protector. While Jane is cognizant of the difficulties she'll face in life due to her skin tone, she has goals to make the most of her position and see the world.
But men with power always want more, and there are opportunist who are seeking to set up independent cities where they can rule above all. Jane is kidnapped and sent there when she begins to uncover a plot by the Mayor of Baltimore to try to harness even the undead as slave labor. From there, she must try to plot her escape, save her friends, and reunite with her mother.
This is a decent book, but not exceptional. I found another reviewer who did a good job of putting my criticisms into words:
"Dread Nation is what I like to call a book that has all bones and no meat. There’s a solid idea but it’s basically bunch of events, zombie attacks, in-between a bunch of nothing. This book is contingent on world building because this is a new world. Post Civil War America is different than what we know because of zombies so there needs to be some solid world building BUT because this book is written in first person where Jane talks to the reader, the entire world is info dumped. When you have a first person POV, your world building options are limited. I looked through my personal library of fantasy and almost all of them are third person with the exception of Kiss of Deception that relies on interludes of old texts for world building. With Dread Nation, all we get is the old south with their plantations and zombies. Then they go to the old west where there’s a brothel, a church, and a saloon, and zombies. That’s not world building; that’s all old west movies. If that’s what Ireland is going for, relying on the reader’s preconceived ideas of the old south and the old west, why did this book need to be 464 pages?"
Dread Nation has an amazing premise: what if America was hit by a zombie plague in the middle of the Civil War? As a fan of both 19th century history and zombie apocalypses, I was so excited that I actually worried this book couldn't live up to its hype.
I was so wrong. Dread Nation is more than just an awesome idea, it's a thrilling story with tight pacing, surprising twists, and a whole cast of compelling characters. But the element that really made this book for me was the protagonist, Jane McKeene. She's our first-person narrator and wow, what an incredible voice! Jane's toughness and dark humor turned an already excellent story into solid gold.
Dread Nation was definitely one of my favorite books of 2018--I can't wait for the sequel!
Best review and commentary on this book that I've read is by Alex Brown on Tor.com here: https://www.tor.com/2018/04/03/book-reviews-dread-nation-by-justina-ireland/
Per Alex Brown, "There are three main ways to read Dread Nation. Some readers will focus on the pop culture candy of a nineteenth century alt-history zombie apocalypse. Many (including those who call themselves allies) will relish the allegorical way Ireland explores racism, classism, feminism, sexism, and bigotry. They might even catch wind of the conversations about colorism. And then there’s the third way wherein Black Americans have a conversation with each other about our shared heritage and lived experiences." Go read the review, if you're hesitant about context and approach.
I'm eagerly waiting for the rest of this series.
In this alternative history, the end of the Civil War is hastened when the battlefield dead rise, walk and begin to feast on (and “turn”) their compatriots. Under the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, young people like Jane have become adept at killing the dead. Jane is better than most, having supplemented her boarding school drills with unauthorized rescue missions outside the walls of the school grounds. But Jane finds that the simple and predictable hunger of the “shamblers” is nothing compared to the sinister corruption she uncovers as she tries to survive and escape the remote Western outpost of Summerland.
What if zombies rose from the dead during the Civil War and former slaves had to be trained to fight them? Dread Nation answers this question as the reader follows Jane McKeene, a highly trained African American zombie fighter as she navigates a still deeply prejudiced world as it struggles to combat a much deeper existential threat. A great read.
Dread Nation reminds me of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter because it succeeds in every place that novel failed. For starters, it is well-written, fast-paced and fun. It's also a story of racial oppression told through the eyes of black people. It is a story of racism entwined with the supernatural that places the blame squarely on white humans taking advantage of their ~crisis~ to subjugate people of color. It is rich with active and interesting female characters. It has well-rounded queer characters. Its heroine is a charming rogue in a way women are rarely allowed to be, with a distinctive voice that makes this novel compulsively readable. But Dread Nation is much more than a how-to-manual that I wish to beat Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter over the head with. Its plot veers off in surprising directions and keeps you on your toes. At its heart is an unlikely friendship that develops at the perfect speed: one minute they're at each other's throats, then before you know it they're ready to die for each other. I love this reimagining of history, and I'm excited to see how the sequel handles its loaded setting.
I can't say I care much for zombie stories but this was a fantastic read - Zombies during the Civil War? Yes please. Jane was amazing, and the story went some places I did not expect. If you read anything this year from YA, this would be an excellent suggestion.
This alternate history involving slavery and zombies and how that changed (or didn't change) the course of American history was awesome. I loved Jane lots and lots and I loved the friends she had. Not her prime choices in companions but they were the companions they needed. The humans are as worse if not more than the 'shamblers' and I basically blasted through this as much as I wanted to savour it.