Dust by Joan Frances Turner

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Dust

Author: Joan Frances Turner

Type of Book: Fiction, horror, zombies

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s not wholly odd but it’s inventive and it was a great life-saver for me when I realized the zombie-western I wanted to review was too short for me to have much to say about it.

Availability: Published by Berkley Publishing in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: We have reached the final day of my first Zombie Week and I can’t thank all of you enough for making this a fun, instructive and interesting experiment for me. I have dozens of new authors on my radar due to the excellent recommendations people have shared, I’ve learned much about zombies and I’ve met some pretty cool people. Thanks to everyone who commented to my entries and contributed their love of the genre.

And today is the last day to comment in order to win the five books I am giving away. Here’s how you enter the contest to win all five books:
–Leave a comment on any of the Zombie Week discussions.
–You can enter up to five times by leaving a comment on all five of the Zombie Week entries.
–Only one comment per entry will count. So if you comment 50 times in one entry, you’ve only entered once.
–Alternately, you can leave one comment on all five entries at any time you want, as long as you make all comments by 9:00 pm CST on Friday, 4/1/11.

I bought Dust because regular IROB reader, Anton, suggested it. I was in a book store, saw it on the shelf and bought it with Anton’s recommendation in mind. It sat in a stack of books in my bedroom until last week. I was thisclose to canceling Zombie Week because I ended up with problems with two of the books I had planned to discuss. I picked up Dust, not knowing a damn thing about it other than Anton liked it and was happy, happy, happy it turned out to be about Zombies. So I booked it and got it finished in time. Anton and Dust saved Zombie Week. Yay.

There is a blurb for this book and I don’t remember who said it, but it says to the effect that with this book, Turner has done for zombies what Anne Rice did for vampires. Initially I thought that was utter bullshit, but then I thought about it and it may be right. Before Rice, did anyone tell the story of vampires from the mind of the vampire? There may have been some outliers here and there but until Rice, I am unsure if the story of the vampire from the vampire’s perspective was typical. The only other person I can think of at the time who presented the vampire’s perspective in a manner invoking sympathy for the devil was Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and I am unsure who technically got there first, but for better or worse, Rice is definitely credited with giving us the mind of the vampire in a manner that influenced just about every vampire writer since.

And since I have not read nearly enough zombie novels, I don’t know if there are others out there that give us a look into the mind of a zombie, but if there are, then they are in pretty good company with Turner’s Dust. In Dust, Turner really has created not only a zombie culture wherein zombies have personal identities, but has also combined several mythos in order to create her zombies. People die and rise from the dead. The zombies rot but they take years to do it, even centuries, becoming bug-filled, nasty, shambling messes. Eventually the zombies dry out as their flesh and viscera are eaten away, falling to dust. An elderly zombie sounds more like an unwrapped mummy to me. These zombies rise from the grave with sharpened teeth, pointed in a way that reminded me of vampires more than anything else. And these zombies are able to communicate with each other telepathically, which is important because tongues and throats rot away. Unless a zombie turns to dust from old age, they can also be killed if their brains are stomped more or less into oblivion. The condition cannot be spread by bites. It simply happens because of a specific plot device in the book, and anyone can become a zombie when dead. And there is an apocalypse but it would be hard to call it a zombie apocalypse.