Dread Nation is perfect for fans and non-fans of The Walking Dead alike


Zombie fiction needs something to distinguish it from The Walking Dead these days, and Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation has that in spades.

With the cultural giant that is The Walking Dead, even in these later years, any new zombie fiction has to have something special to help it stand out.

For the previously mentioned Newsflesh series, it’s the fact that the apocalyptic event happened long enough ago for kids to grow up. For Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it’s putting zombies in the story of Pride and Prejudice.

And for Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation, it’s setting Jane McKeene in the aftermath of the Civil War (and the rise of the undead, no big).

Oh, and Jane is black, sent as a young teen to a school where she has learned to fight zombies. Native Americans do the same because Ireland says in her own author’s note that she based this aspect of her world on the actual boarding school system in real-world history.

That’s how Dread Nation sets itself apart. It’s not just throwing zombies in to write a cool zombie historical fiction book. Like all the best zombie fiction, the zombies are just the backdrop to the actual point of the book: social commentary.

And Jane makes her commentary in all kinds of ways — from sometimes playing to stereotypes to helping certain fellow students pass as white when they need to in order to have a shot at survival.

Killing shamblers happens to be something she’s good at, but it is not the only thing she’s good at, and she’s not good at everything either. Jane’s realistic about her flaws, too — her skills at lying, her outspokenness’ tendency to pop up at some horrible times and her weakness for clever boys chief among them. And she doesn’t like everyone she meets, either.

But the book doesn’t let that weakness get in the way of developing a friendship between Jane and Katherine, another student at the same school. They don’t like each other at first, but circumstances force them together, and they end up forging a friendship. Even that isn’t perfect. They still disagree on things and have different approaches to getting themselves out of the situation they find themselves in.

If anything, Ireland could have done a bit more work in establishing the differences between the Egalitarians and the Survivalists, the two major factions in dealing with the zombie threat. The Survivalists end up dominating things just a touch too much. Perhaps that’ll change with the next book, as it appears that this is going to be a series.

Next: 8 more books for fans of The Walking Dead

So, if The Walking Dead just isn’t satisfying quite as much as it used to, or if you just need all the zombies you can possibly get, or if you like your paranormal fiction with some well-done social commentary, Dread Nation is the book for you.