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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
    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.

29 of 30 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

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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

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.]

6 of 6 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

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!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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

3 of 3 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

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.

3 of 4 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

very empowering book for some of us

Where does Dread Nation rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

top 10 and i've listened to over 100 books

What other book might you compare Dread Nation to and why?

This is my first listen in this genre but if I had to compare it i'de say a civil war novel written from the perspective of someone sympathizing with moderate confederates while establishing the right of the women's rights movement.

What does Bahni Turpin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

she makes you feel the story! to be honest her emotion is what subsided some of my anger toward the book

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

***spoiler alert**** when she killed the sheriff instead of saying the common words through out the book " but I didn't"

Any additional comments?

if your a black male this book isn't for you it's actually very derogatory toward you, there we're no strong black male characters in this book(not even red jack which the author makes a point to point out his mixed heritage come to think of it that's the narrative throughout the book(Katherine and Jane). I did enjoy the author writing style and story telling ability I will purchase more of her books I just hope that she rights a book for us as well or something in scifi so she can skirt those issues

3 of 4 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

Fun blend of horror, fantasy and alternate history

This may be favorite book this year. Loved the narrator she made the story pulse and breathe.

2 of 3 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

A Breathe of Fresh Air.

Any additional comments?

This book was exactly what I have been waiting on. I am so happy that we have a great piece of Sci-fiction with black characters. The story is well written and enthralling. All characters are well developed. I can not wait for the next book to see the process of this wonderful world the author has created. This is a MUST listen, Bahni does not disappoint, per usual.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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

Civil War meets Zombies

With a strong heroine who saves the day, this story brings the old South back but with zombies this time. What is worse the white masters or The Walking Dead? They seem to be one in the same period