Thursday, June 14, 2012

Something that could've been so unique and cool instead did a walking dead face-plant.

2 out of 5 stars

While I can appreciate the uniqueness of telling a zombie story from the zombie's P.O.V., there were a few things about the story that just rubbed me the wrong way. First off, in Joan Frances Turner's tale, the undead don't like being called zombies. Now, she's set her zombie tale in the culture of gangs, which, from that perspective, I can understand the distinction of names, as within some cultural subsets, past and present, certain peoples resent the names they're referred to by outsiders, preferring instead to be known by a more individual or pride-bearing title. So in that way, I can see the angle Turner's coming from. However, as a reader, reading a zombie novel from a zombie's P.O.V. and set in a zombie world, the whole "don't call us zombies!" thing got annoying swiftly. Secondly, speaking of the gang culture used in this novel, there was an aspect of it which seemed rather stupid in context. Turner used the same sort of beat down used by today's gangs to initiate members, which is moronically stupid for humans beings but an utterly brainless concept for zombies. We're talking about walking corpses, already beginning the slow decline into rot and decay. Left alone, that process will create missing limbs, flayed flesh, and all manner of bodily decrepitude naturally. Add in the concept of one zombie beating the dying crap out of another zombie, thereby hastening both of their deterioration, and you've got a concept that doesn't make one iota of sense. Thirdly, the characters weren't captivating. The only two I liked and empathized with were Florian, the wise sage, and Linc, the steadfast friend. The main character, Jessie, didn't catch my interest at all; most of the time, her anger--at the humans (or "hoos"), her family, pretty much the entire world--just made me angry, as I never really understood why she felt the way she did. So, eventually, her behavior just made her look like a brat. The rest of the characters were unlikable or simply forgettable. Most importantly, though, the plot barely existed. I couldn't tell you exactly what the whole point of the novel was. We're introduced to the zombie culture and meet all the players in the first third of the novel. Then this new plague which affects both humans and zombies is introduced, but the "investigation" of it is rather lackadaisical and meandering. There's no real tension to the entire piece. Not to mention some of the concepts within are never explained properly. How is it that the zombies can talk to each other? Why does Jessie hear musical instruments playing (a guitar for one character, a piano for another) when other zombies talk? Is that common to all zombies or is it unique to Jessie? Never mind some of the plot holes, such as the idea that it takes burning to kill a zombie. Fine. Why, then, isn't cremation a mandatory action upon death? And Turner's zombies are quite intelligent; they can reason and plan and motivate themselves. So why the hell haven't they taken over the world? Zombies that smart and that motivated surely must be a helluva threat, much greater than the one their presented to be in the novel. Finally, we have the ending, ***SPOILER*** in which some sort of new race is created, although nothing is really explained. Are they new zombies? New humans? Some sort of hybrid? What does this mean for the world at large? There's some mention of a meteor being responsible for the zombie plague (I think; I'm not quite sure on that point), but, once again, nothing is ever explained thoroughly.***END SPOILER***  It was just the weakest, most unsatisfying conclusion imaginable.

While Turner has managed to create lyrical prose concerning the most horrific of images (vile smells, carnage, crushed bones and blood spatter among others), I can't say I felt satisfied or impressed when I put the book down. In fact, when I finished the last page, my exact words were, "What the hell? What was the freaking point?" Meandering and limp, I can't say Dust has much to recommend it.

Read January 1-5, 2012
Originally reviewed on Goodreads January 17, 2012

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