Dust

Dust

3.4 40
by Joan Frances Turner
     
 

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What happens between death and life can change a girl. Jessie is a zombie. And this is her story . . .

Nine years ago, Jessie was in a car crash and died. After she was buried, she awoke and tore through the earth to arise, reborn, as a zombie. And there are others—gangs of undead roaming the Indiana woods, fighting, hunting, hidden.

But when a

Overview

What happens between death and life can change a girl. Jessie is a zombie. And this is her story . . .

Nine years ago, Jessie was in a car crash and died. After she was buried, she awoke and tore through the earth to arise, reborn, as a zombie. And there are others—gangs of undead roaming the Indiana woods, fighting, hunting, hidden.

But when a mysterious illness threatens the existence of both zombies and humans, Jessie must decide whether to stay and fight or flee to survive . . .  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Turner offers an original variation on the near-ubiquitous zombie theme in her debut novel, but her concept doesn't really coalesce by book's end. Rather than being mindless, drooling, shambling monsters, the undead can communicate with each other, struggle for leadership, and form emotional attachments when they're not chowing down on raw meat. Jessica Anne Porter, undead these nine years, is vehemently opposed to the word "zombie," which she considers racist. She belongs to a zombie gang called the Fly-by-Nights that battles other gangs over Wisconsin territory. The inevitable gore ("the nauseating, liquid softness of her brains scrambled eggs under my pounding fist"), and the main activities of daily unliving ("nothing to do but eat raw flesh and sleep too much and fight about nothing") don't offer much for readers to connect with. (Sept.)
VOYA - Jennifer Rummel
Jessie became a zombie at the tender age of fifteen and lost out on most of life's great experiences. Now she lives with a new family, a family of zombies. She learns to become tough and fight her way through any battle. She learns to hunt and feed herself and her family. Most of all, Jessie learns to accept herself as a zombie. When a virus appears, it endangers everything that Jessie now holds dear. She desperately tries to unravel the mystery of what's happening not only to her species but to humans as well—no one is immune. She must piece together clues in order to survive again. Turner portrays the zombies in Dust with human characteristics—emotions and thought processes—instead of as terrifying monsters. They do not suck brains or eat humans; they feast only on animals to survive. Zombies form their own groups, their own attachments and hierarchies. Turner explores beyond the typical zombie novel and writes a tale that is part mystery, part genetic-engineering thriller, and all zombies. Fans of zombie or horror books will enjoy this horrifyingly gruesome tale with graphic descriptions of decay and death, hunting and eating, fighting and dying. Reviewer: Jennifer Rummel
Library Journal
What if zombies aren't mindless eating machines? What if they think, feel, and communicate with one another but just can't make themselves understood to ordinary humans? That's the premise of this debut novel, which is told from the point of view of Jessie, who's been dead for nine years. She runs with a gang and doesn't have it too bad, until a new disease begins to infect both the living and the undead, changing each in different ways. BZG Jessie's disdain for her living self's vegetarianism and animal-rights activism: "There's nothing in this world...as honest or as beautiful as meat and blood."
From the Publisher
Dust is...

“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  

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780441019281
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
09/07/2010
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Dust - the Origins

It started with George Romero, but then it almost always does. Friday night, October sometime in the mid-1990s, and the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead was the only thing on television. I'd never seen it and had no particular interest in zombies, but the only alternative was my contracts law textbook so why not? And from the moment poor doomed Johnny solemnly intoned "They're coming to get you, Bar-buh-rah!", the movie had me, and it kept me, and the ending was a punch in the gut. The grainy black and white, the clumsy acting, the slapdash storyline and foolish self-destructive characters and almost nonexistent special effects weren't deterrents, they were the whole point. It all looked like ancient footage from some amateur documentary, and real people act foolish at the worst possible times. I never saw the remake, or any of the sequels: It wasn't the idea of zombies, themselves, that had me, it was that particular story. I didn't seek out any other.
Flash forward to 2003, and Carnival of Souls. More cheap black and white, shot on a shoestring in the middle of nowhere, and when Mary Henry's hand emerged from the depths of a Kansas lake long after she should have drowned they had me, again. Were those technically zombies, though, or were they ghosts? It had to be the former, for no ghost appears in the flesh as she did, walks among the living almost but not quite one of them, inspires their unwitting yet visceral disgust: They could, so to speak, smell the decay all inside her. That fascinated me, as did the titular carnival at the Saltair Pavilion. Zombies like to dance, it turns out, to eerie, calliope-style music that seems to come from nowhere. Interesting.
What George Romero started Herk Harvey finished, and I couldn't get zombies, themselves, out of my mind. They were ubiquitous, actually, when you started paying attention, but the more I learned about zombies and the popular imagination the duller and less satisfying it all was. Zombies, it turned out, were nothing but a joke. Talk funny. Walk funny. Ugly. Smelly. Filthy. Can't speak English right. Eat disgusting food. Spread disease. Mentally inferior. Lights on, nobody's home. They'll steal and devour everything you hold dear, including yourself. Shoot them. Kill them. Cleanse the earth of their kind. It's a moral imperative.
I was urged at every step, in this particular mythology, to ally myself with The Good Guy, the clean upright English-speaking human alpha male and his ragtag gun-toting buddies who were making the world safe for the One True Species, one bullet-riddled skull at a time. The hell with that. Zombies--actually, Jessie's absolutely right, let's dispense with that misappropriated West African word--the undead are nothing but people who died. Your mother, "Good" Guy, your spouse, your sibling, your child, your friend, your neighbor, you yourself, and what if you only think they're all monsters? What if dead people still have minds of their own, can laugh and fight and form friendships and love each other and grieve--and kill, as you do, for malice and sport as much as from hunger? What if the moans and groans you hear are an actual language? What if the undead have a "life" span, slowly aging and decaying and crumbling into dust just as inert bodies do in the coffin? What if the creature in your crosshairs still remembers you, loves you, can't plead for what you once were to each other before you pull the trigger?
(For that matter, what if your incredibly tedious guns don't even do the job? That's the first determination I made when I sat down to write Dust, that there would be no Deus Ex Firearms whatsoever. Fire itself, that'd work to kill them, but then fire has the disadvantage of spreading like, well, wildfire. As does bio-weaponry, but then we're getting ahead of ourselves.)
If Dust could be summed up in one sentence, it would be a lyric from Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: "The history of the world, my sweet, is who gets eaten and who gets to eat." It presupposes a world where the living dead are not some new aberration but have existed alongside the humans they once were for thousands of years, an uneasy harmony occasionally broken up by unfortunate incidents such as, say, the famous Pittsburgh Massacre of '68. Other elements came into play: the Greek myth of Erysichthon, which haunted me since I first read it as a child, about a man the gods punish for his hubris with a hunger so insatiable he ultimately devours...himself. Luc Sante's beautiful, unsentimental prose poem "The Unknown Soldier," in which the forgotten dead assert their right to speak for themselves. The eerie photographs and morbid newspaper clippings from Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip. The unsettling banjo music in the end credits of the cult horror film The Last Broadcast, which inspired the notion that the undead express their strongest emotions through telepathic music: "brain radios." That and eerie waltzes in Carnival of Souls inspired the spontaneous psychic dances, the only moments of true peace and harmony the undead ever enjoy.
Eating, in this world, is identity: The living eat dead meat. The dead eat meat so recently living that it's still warm and pulsing with life. The dead find the living's dietary habits as abominable, disgusting, taboo as the reverse. Every human alive, in our world as well as theirs, pins a far greater part of their self-image than they realize on what goes into their mouths. It was a joke then that Jessie, the fervent vegan in life, began a ravenous flesh-hunter in death, and yet it was also entirely to be expected.
Armed with the facts--such as they were--in September 2003 I jotted down a sparse page of disjointed notes: character names, story locales (the Calumet Region of northwest Indiana, besides being my easily accessible home geography, was both underserved in fiction and had enough urban-suburban-rural-industrial variety to make it interesting), a little folkloric rhyme the undead liked to sing amongst themselves but never made it into the book. The slang--"hoo" for humans, "rotter" and "feeder" and "bloater" and " 'maldie" for each other--also came early because it was fun to think up. Jessie simply walked in right at the start and announced herself, an angry, lonely girl abused in life, abandoned in death, yearning for love and acceptance but furious at the world. It was inevitable she'd take instantly to the jarring, aggressive, insatiably hungry culture of the undead, also inevitable that she'd write off her human family entirely only to have them return to be her undoing. Joe started as a parody, one of those "teen angel" hoods-with-a-heart-of-gold from the fifties pop songs who dies in a drag race gone wrong, and then he surprised me by showing himself as lonely and yearning as Jessie, if not more so, under the brutal surface. It was inevitable, again, that they'd both fall in love. Florian, a literal walking skeleton, was always meant to be the paterfamilias of Jessie's surrogate family, but I never expected him to turn out gentle, genuinely wise, the only true parent she ever really had.
Actually they all surprised me, as I worked little by little on draft one, draft two, draft three through 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007. Renee, the lamb thrown into a pit of snarling wolves, grew up amazingly fast and became not just Jessie's friend, but her ally. Linc--only kindhearted from Jessie's perspective, no human would want to run into him--was supposed to be merely Joe's foil, the "geek" to his "jock," but then quietly, stubbornly, relentlessly worked his way up from the margins of the story to the center. Teresa, the gang leader, was even more selfish and cruel that I'd imagined. (The rival gang the Rat Patrol were exactly as selfish and cruel as I'd imagined, so at least I had some control over the proceedings.) Lisa, Jessie's neurotic mess of a human sister, proved she could be there for Jessie in death as she never was in life. Jim, her brother, began as the most cardboard sort of villain, missing only a mustache to twirl, then I remembered that the truest antagonists are those who genuinely believe they're acting out of kindness and love. Only when Jim tried to "save" Jessie, did it become clear how much he--like all Good Guys--utterly feared and despised what she'd become. Death him/her/itself, the trickster, the demon, the angel, the destroyer, the salvager, was there from the beginning, though he didn't announce himself right away to me any more than to Jessie: Like any trusting parent, he first and foremost wanted to let his undead children try and fend for themselves.
Since the first inspiration for Dust was a pair of B-movies, other midnight drive-in fixtures seemed entirely appropriate: The meteor that causes extraterrestrial chaos upon landing. The semi-secret laboratory with "noble" purpose gone horribly wrong. The pandemic plague--but why just consider what would happen if the living became undead, why not consider what might happen if the undead were brought back to life? Untouchable life, even? What if Death the trickster, in his eagerness to consume the earth, thus ultimately ended up tricking himself?
It's all well and good to talk about Herk Harvey and banjos and falling meteors, but what truly inspired Dust was of course my own fear of death. There's another song, by the musician Exuma, that embodies it: "You won't go to heaven, you won't go to hell/You'll remain in your graves with the stench and the smell." What if the "afterlife" took place right on earth, and you rotted slowly, inexorably, feeling the first bugs nest and hatch on your body? What if you actually had to watch your loved ones grieving you, as Jessie and Renee both did, and be yards away and yet an eternity removed, unable now to be anything to them but a monster? What if pain, fear, longing, grief, the hungers of the body don't stop when life stops? What if Death isn't an angel of mercy, but a real live son of a bitch?
As it turns out, then, for me as for everyone else the undead were an embodiment of fear. But they surprised me, yet again, by becoming embodiments of hope as well. Life doesn't end after death, not really. To become something new, alien, unimagined, is not to lose oneself, one's identity and thoughts and needs and wants, they just express themselves a little differently. Nobody's lost to anyone forever; if there is no afterlife, there is at least the "eternity" of memory. To lose one family is to gain another. Betrayal by loved ones can lead to new, stronger bonds that are about real trust. Nearly everyone's stronger and more capable than they imagine, when put to the test. Flesh is just flesh and if it rots, well, that's only natural.
But that's all very Hallmark Hall of Fame and ultimately it was also about having some fun whistling in the graveyard. Dust was a chance to play with all sorts of notions of life and death: ordinary mortal existence, living consciousness trapped in dead decaying bodies, seemingly "live" flesh rotting and dying from the inside out, invulnerable immortality through the back door. As Jessie says, "How many kinds of living and dead and living dead and dead living had I been in just these few months, these few days, after the stasis of plain old human living and dying? I deserved some kind of existential medal." Tell me about it, it was hard to keep up. It also felt like finding the pulse of something real, and true, about life and death under all the campiness of traditional zombie mythology. Both the B-movie folklore and the insomniac anxieties inspired the book in equal measure, and both deserve their due. It starts with a silly story, some actors shuffling around sideways in worn-out clothes, and ends with real people, real fears, real hopes. But then, it almost always does.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Dust is...

“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

Meet 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 and a garden full of spring onions and tiger lilies, weather permitting. Dust is her first novel.

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Dust 3.4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 40 reviews.
ChelseaW More than 1 year ago
Jessie barely remembers the day she died in a car accident. Her life did not end there. She is a zombie, but don't you dare call her that. She lives in the woods with a small pack of other undead, living and surviving in a sort of mock-society. They hunt, they sleep, they have a fearless leader. Then Jessie runs into her brother Jim, an uninfected human who works at a lab to research zombies. However, as Jessie's friends and acquaintances begin to get sick and die (again), she realizes something much more sinister may be at work. This book was SO gory! Seriously. But I suppose a certain amount of gore is to be expected from a book where the main characters are dead and rotting. Still... would advise against snacking while reading this one. There were some interesting bits on theories about what it means to be alive. Joan Frances Turner has obviously spent time thinking about zombies as dead or alive, and her characters reflect her deep thoughts. Her writing style was nice too - I thought it brought a specific level of calm and poetry to the lifestyle of the undead. Not a bad book, but I couldn't really get into the mind and life of Jessie.
Suspensemag More than 1 year ago
With shocking ingenuity, newcomer Joan Frances Turner has singlehandedly broken the mold-erasing the zombie stereotypes of uncommunicative, strangely empty and emotionless beings-and given the undead life in her debut "Dust". No longer will fans be limited to the B-movie imagery of solitary, brainless corpses who fresh from their graves, senselessly hunt humans in the light of the full moon. With a new and innovative twist, Turner gives us a terrifying insider's look. Limited to safety zones, fifteen-year-old Jesse Porter was raised with a healthy dose of fear concerning the undead, but she never imaged that she would experience their life.or lack of. Jesse's first birthday-reborn-was a very big deal as she watched in horror as her parents, who didn't get along well in life, fight for the scraps of a small unwitting animal. Faced with a range of emotions, including disgust, Jesse easily recognizes what she has become. Physically mangled and new to this life, Jesse considers herself lucky when painfully accepted into a small reclusive gang. A group-similar, in parts, to any average American family-with a hierarchy that she can cope with and accepts as her family. Happy for a decade, when her small unit begins to break apart, Jesse can no longer sit idly by and she quickly realizes that these new strange changes aren't only affecting her family. It is happening to the world because the key is in the connections. Richly developed characters and an original storyline make "Dust" impossible to miss. Reviewed by: Shannon Raab, Creative Director for Suspense Magazine www.suspensemagazine.com
harstan More than 1 year ago
After not buckling her seatbelt, she died at fifteen in a car accident and was interred in a zone void of humans. She wakes up inside her coffin and though she has only one good arm as her right was almost severed off in the accident, she pushes her way out of the coffin and digs through the dirt. The teen immediately knows what she is: a revenant (zombie) and joins a pack of her kind. They live in a human-free zone where they hunt animals for food. Jessie is an undead who does not suffer from zombie amnesia as she remembers her previous mortal life though nine years have passed since she passed. She has feelings for those she considers family (past and present) though humans lock them away with putting electrical security fences their homes as if they were illegal immigrants and the police have standing orders to kill at first sight. However an inexplicable plague arises like none before as this pandemic disease can kill human and revenant. If a miracle cure is not found soon, both species will go way of the dinosaur turning into fossils and Dust. This is a first rate urban fantasy that "humanizes" zombies who are not mindless shark like predators, but a different sentient life form with feelings for others. Jessie is a strong willed resolute soul who thrives on coping with whatever splitter fastball life throws at her head. Readers will root for her while enjoying Joan Frances Turner's sensual revamping of zombie fever. Harriet Klausner
CillianRune More than 1 year ago
This book has everything: undead, angry complex characters, gangs, survival literature, gore, relationships, love, hatred, apocalypse and all the human emotions amplified in the voice of undead Jessie. The story is excellent, and extremely well written. Beautiful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeaAndSpooks More than 1 year ago
Dust by Joan Frances Turner is not your typical zombie book. Yes, there is the blood, gore, flesh eating delight that comes with every zombie work of fiction-but there is so much more than what meets the eye in this novel. Turner creates a post apocalyptic world and a brand new mythology surrounding the undead. They have lives, gangs, friends, emotions, their own language. It is so incredible! I give this a 5 out of 5. I really, really enjoyed it. You get to see the main character--Jessie-- go through the process of dying, undying, and dying, and then undying again. You feel her emotions, care about the things she cares about, and see the things that she sees. The author is incredibly clear, crystal clear, in her descriptions, making it very easy to let your imagination inhabit this world she has built for us to explore. The story is easy to follow, and the writing flows so well. The characters are colorful and well thought out, making them very real considering they are supposed to be the dead walking and talking. I will admit I had a huge hankering for close-to-rare steak after reading this, as her description of the creatures consuming raw meat actually made it sound appealing (not the human bits, of course). Turner gives zombie books everywhere a run for their money in this comedic, wonderfully written and vivid depiction of plague-ridden Michigan, and the events that caused it all. I personally am not much of a fangirl when it comes to zombie themed supernatural or paranormal novels-- the walking dead and world war z just are not really my cup of tea, ya know? But this book is so much more complex and involved than rotting undead monsters. They are an actual species with behaviors and feelings, which puts a whole new spin on the mythology than anything I have every seen before. If given the chance, anyone who likes horror, paranormal or macabre, bloody humor should definitely check this book out. It's to die for. ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was hard to put down. Different and imaginative.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She waits outside. Her intention is to see the leader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Blank
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the boom up until the ending. Amazing read but the ending just sucked.
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EggSoup More than 1 year ago
Not+your+average+zombie+tale.+Decent+read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The zombies are coming and run away from this poor attempt of a novel. Not worth the paper or internet space it takes up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BizzleBotch More than 1 year ago
A Must Read For Zombie Fans! All The Gore And More!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book on the Lend Me feature and I will be buying it.
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