Dust by Joan Frances Turner

13th Dec 2011


We take the journey with Jessie, nine years after her premature death as a seemingly innocent 15-year-old girl. She is now a part of an undead gang, a motley crew in various stages of decay, who mostly act like teenagers out for a good time.

It all seems pretty straight up and down once you get over the loosing of limbs, graphic descriptions of bloating, gas, bugs and missing facial features. The gang hunt, goof around, and try to avoid other tougher members and nearby clusters.

Zombie ‘life’ goes on, until a discovery is made that threatens the groups survival. Strangers are in their territory, seemingly ill, not dead like Jessie and her zombie pals, but not quite living.

This discovery challenges the balance of the friends, and begins to bring the past and the future into focus as their reality is threatened by the lastest catastrophic human intervention.

There is as much to draw you into the story as their is to pull you out. The detail is nearing obsessive in places, as Turner does little to shy away from the gore of her subject matter.

She has gone to great lengths to create complicated worlds in which her zombies could be born, and yet fails to supply her characters with the same purpose and drive. The narrative feel quite pulpy at times, similar to Twilight in it’s teen styled angst, making the reader work to feel for the characters, even Jessie and her complicated set-up.

While Turner’s publishers tell us that she is currently writing her follow-up novel Frail, her Twitter reveals that she is productive and critical: “I’m 76,000 words into Book Three (though no idea yet if it ever sees daylight). Time go whoosh.”

I would be be inclined to dip back into Turner’s world a second time around to see if the maggot-filled, coffin-juice-splattered images might be described in less fervent detail, with the characters given a little more of that detail orientation as a result.

Turner is still finding her groove,  and I’m rooting for the less teen angst version to surface in her next reincarnation, creating the zombies you believe in, rather than the ones you imagine high-schoolers becoming.

Published in September by Penguin, you can buy it in paperback for £5.59, or get the Kindle edition for only £2.99.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended for: Lovers of pulp and horror.

Other recommended reading: For gore-tinged teen troubles try Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris, or for a more complex otherworldly experience, take up Audrey Niffenger‘s Her Fearful Symmetry.

Rachelle Thompson