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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller, six starred reviews

At once provocative, terrifying, and darkly subversive, Dread Nation is Justina Ireland's stunning vision of an America both foreign and familiar - a country on the brink, at the explosive crossroads where race, humanity, and survival meet.

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities - and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It's a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. 

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

©2018 Justina Ireland (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Bahni Turpin brings to life the barely restrained sarcasm of Jane McKeene, the bold heroine... Turpin's rendition of Jane's first-person voice illuminates her pluck, resilience, and wit.... Turpin moves easily between the emotions and accents of the many characters. She highlights the tension in the plot and clearly expresses the prejudices of some of the characters." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Cynthia
  • Monrovia, California, United States
  • 05-15-18

The Dead Are Never Lonely

Justina Ireland’s “Dread Nation: Rise Up” (2018) passed my highest test for a book since November 2016: it ripped me away from my daily Audible New York Times - Washington Post - Wall Street Journal habit and into another time and place, both resonant and alien, and unfailingly fascinating.

“Dread Nation” is set in what would have been the Reconstruction Era of post-Civil War United States - except that the Battle of Gettysburg never ended. Instead, 50,000 dead soldiers rose and started to eat their brothers-in-arms. The Union survived the war and the Negros (Ms. Ireland’s word., not mine) are “emancipated” to become servants and warriors.

Jane McKeene is a fierce Negro fighter born to a once well-to-do and landed white Southern woman. The very circumstances of her birth make her suspect and suspected. She’s sent to school to learn to be a handmaid and personal guardian to wealthy white women. Jane’s a strong fighter and a brilliant strategist, and well aware of danger before those around her are.

The writing is somewhat cliched - but to be fair, I’ve been reading for almost half a century. Jane’s ignored, discounted, and minimized, in the way that teenaged girls often are in literature and real life. There’s romance and misunderstandings and drama. Just because somethings a trope doesn’t make it less true. And what’s old hat (cliche intended!) to me is going to be fresh to a younger reader.

I mostly read non-fiction science and medical history, and it was a nice Easter Egg for me to find it historical virology and vaccines accurately described in this book. I rarely read fiction and and I don’t know the whole zombie/Walking Dead canon - they are ‘shamblers’ in “Dread Nation” - but i did fine without reading Robert Kirkman or watching Frank Darabont first.

Bahni Turpin - well, I just hope she doesn’t start narrating grocery lists, because I’m going to end up listening to someone’s weekly trip to Safeway. She’s just that good.

The title of the review is a quote from the book.

[If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks.]

240 of 241 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Does what sci-fi does best...

...addresses current issues in society today in a well-told story with one of my favorite first-person narrators (Jane) in ages. Added bonus: Bahni Turpin is the audio performer.

Alternate history seems to be one of the lesser sub-genres in sci-fi, so I was happy to find this one. In this case, it's the U.S. after the Civil War, which ends abruptly when the dead rise from the battlefield at Gettysburg and start munching on the still-living soldiers along with anyone else they come across. The north and south decide it's more productive to fight zombies instead of each other. While slavery is now against the law, "negroes" are still viewed as little better than animals and are still enslaved, but in new ways. As teenagers, they go to combat schools so that they can protect their white "betters" from zombies.

While this is listed as YA, Jane is...18? The novel has none of the usual annoying YA hallmarks (e.g., no ridiculous love triangles, no overwrought swooning and longing over a love interest, no absence of adults). To me it read more like and adult novel with younger main characters, but all age groups represented--hey, just like it is in the real world.

The relationship between Jane and her frenemy Katherine (who can pass for white) was my favorite relationship in the book. This might be the first time I've felt like a frenemy relationship struck the perfect balance between "I like you, I don't like you." All the characters were interesting and well written.

This appears to be the first book in a series, but the ending was satisfying enough. It didn't end on a total cliff-hanger, which I absolutely despise. If I didn't read the second book (I will definitely read the second book!), I would at least know who lived, who died, and where Jane was headed next.

99 of 101 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

I like Jane, but...

I liked the protagonist but could not determine what her desire was, which made it difficult to root for her. The book reads like a diary and memoir rather than a novel with a plot. The concept was great but the premise was lacking. All throughout I kept trying to guess what Jane’s desire was. I changed my mind a few times. There was possibly one desire she had that stayed throughout the book but she didn’t pursue it and in the end, that desire was not resolved. (I don’t want to include spoilers so I won’t specify.)
There was no tension. The performance was great but perhaps it was the calmness of the reader that eliminated all tension? I’d have to read it to see if that mattered. I cannot believe someone thought this book was terrifying. It wasn’t at all scary, which was odd considering the concept.
I would try another book by this author because I like the way she writes and I like Jane.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Wonderful!

Dread Nation begins with a child, Jane McKeene, who was born in Kentucky on a plantation called Rosewood just two days before zombies, or “Chamblers”” as they are referred to, appear in the Gettysburg, PA battlefields.
To feed the constant need to defend the living from the dead,
a law called the Native and Negro Education Act is enacted to create schools to train children of a certain ethnicity in the art of combat so they can be used to protect the privileged. Those who are successful at the schools are selected to be assigned to protect wealthy families as “attendants”. Jane, who is the daughter of a wealthy white woman is a Negro. Jane sees attending one of these schools as a way to improve her life because outside the home of her loving mother Jane is subject to the harsh reality and unjust discrimination of being a Negro. Jane is educated at home by her mother but longs for something more, so she joins Miss Preston’s school in Baltimore to learn combat arts.
Jane excels at the combat school but just before she is due to complete her training she discovers a secret plot. While Jane is investigating this secret plot she is caught and along with two friends is sent to a remote town run by crooked politicians. The leaders of this new town are in it for profit under the guise of creating a new safe haven for the privileged from the walking dead.
June soon discovers the dark secrets of this new town are far worse then she originally suspected.
The story continues as Jane makes new friends in unlikely places and fights for a way to overcome the evil plot behind all the mysterious incidents going on.
The story is told through Jane’s eyes along with correspondence between her and her mother. The narrator was absolutely wonderful!
Although the book reads like YA, it is interesting and fast paced enough to appeal to adults as well. I highly recommend this book!

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

So good. Can't wait for the next one to come out!

Zombies, the civil war and a girl who fights both the undead and racism at the same time. My daughter an I listened together. we both loved it!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Black folk wanna live during the apocalypse too

What I always wanted from a zombie story, plus I think I like westerns now? Also shout out for having a (my headcanon) ace character and a lowkey bi character. And yea it'll probably stay lowkey but that's fine I suppose it is par for the times.

Biggest thing going into it of course, is that this book is (southern) black. Both in subtle ways that make you feel welcome, and totally in your face, you're gonna have to think about the experiences of black people during this time. On and off the pages. Also the mirror of the way things are still today is very powerful.

P.S. Where did you go Mr. Redfern? I'll wait for you

44 of 50 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Historical Fiction/Zombocalypse You Need Now

I was really blown away by this read.

The historical contexts brought up and seamlessly integrated into a zombie-fighting fiction made for a strong and incredible read. Furthermore we are introduced to a whole slew of very smart, clever, head-strong, and passionate characters who each have their own agendas and constantly find themselves pushed, challenged, foiled, and uplifted by one another.

It’s also really incredibly how many different ethnic minority characters take the lead in this novel. Jane McKeene is our primary protagonist, of course, but she shares the stage with so many other robust and diverse individuals, and I found myself invested in all of them. A real feat for a prose work of this genre. My mind is really boggled by the fact that a zombie historical fiction who’s leading cast is primarily Black/mixed-race was published and hasn’t made it into the news for all the 4chan and Reddit backlash. Praise God! Because this is a much needed work. This is hilarious, searing, gripping, action packed read that deserves to be on everyone’s reading list this year.

I read and listened to this book. While my mother is hooked on Bahni Turpin's voice, I don't always love its tonality. However, her voice is absolutely perfect for this book. The material is also so good I probably would have listened even if I absolutely couldn't stand the narrator. It's just that good.

Five Stars. Will read/listen to again. Can’t wait for the next installment.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Kind of slow to start but better toward the end

When I listen to a zombie book, I want zombie action. This book does not have any appreciable zombie action until about chapter 3. Then it is sparse until the later chapters. What it does have is A LOT of character development which is fine if you are into that type of story. It just felt like the plot was not moving along for quite awhile. The end of the story was good enough that I would consider listening to the inevitable next book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Enjoyable and fast read

stunning narration. fast paced story that hits on subjects that are relevant today even if the book is set post civil war.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Faunus
  • Grand Rapids, OH
  • 08-24-18

Zombies during the Civil War? A new war begins!

I listened to this book on Audible and being my first actual Zombie book I read I really enjoyed it. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Justina Ireland does a fantastic job at world building and character development and puts a new spin, at least for me, on the zombie apocalypse. The protagonist Jane McKeen definitely was and has become one of my favorite characters I have had the pleasure to read about. In Dread Nation we find ourselves thrown into the Civil War Era where the Civil War is interrupted by the rise of Zombies, or Shambler's in the book, and the North and South has to set aside their differences to take on a new threat to this Nation. Can the North and South set aside their differences to survive? With the Civil War interrupted what happens to our Nation and the stance on Slavery and the treatment of African American's in this Country? Justina Ireland definitely covers all this in Dread Nation.

For the most part I highly enjoyed the book. It kept my interest and brought up some feelings, including me tearing up while listening to it, regarding our history during the Civil war area and how the African American Community is and was treated in this Country. Justina Ireland really has a great talent for story telling. I tossed around the idea of either reading the book or listening to the audiobook and I was glad I did the audiobook because the narration was beautiful! The talented Bahni Turpin does a beautiful job narrating Dread Nation. Bahni just doesn't read the book as I have heard some narrator's do. She brings the book to life bringing depth and emotion to an all ready well written story. Bahni did a beautiful job bringing the different personalities and voices of the character's alive and even had me speaking in a Southern Drawl on quite a few occasions.

My only meh feelings for the book is that some parts seemed to drag on. Being a fan of horrror and zombies I was thinking to myself that although this was a different spin on Zombies, at least for me, it seemed to be kind of the same thing we see or read about with any zombie situation. With that said that was my only complaint, if you even can call it that, but due to the good character development and world building and the challenges that Jane and the other's face had me coming back for more wondering what would happen next. As I don't like to do reviews with spoilers this is probably a book I would like to see a second book on to see what becomes of the character's as we are left with a little cliff hanger at the end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful