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Class-Action Vampires

Author of "Civil Blood" (2018), contributor to numerous video games, infrequent blogger at www.christopherhepler.com. I like thrillers, urban fantasy, science fiction, and the occasional thematic point about human nature.

Dread Nation: Started off loving it... ended up only liking it.

Dread Nation - Justina Ireland

I enjoyed and admired a lot of things about Dread Nation, but for some reason it didn't gel into a book that I would rave about the way all the positive professional reviews do. I found myself getting sidetracked with other books until I finally made up my mind to finish it, and when I did, I found the ending a little lacking. Strengths of the book include its core premise, backstory, setting, world-building, and protagonist. A Reconstruction-era, zombie-fighting, sickle-wielding WOC and her friends from combat school is an idea that I haven't seen before in any medium, and I was on board after the first few pages. Jane is fiery and clever and doesn't fit into the subservient little role that polite society wants ("society" being a long parade of authority figures). The antagonists are pretty convincing evil racists, who long for the "good old days" of slavery that are still in living memory and blaming the zombies on man's "mistake," the Civil War and emancipation. The humans are worse than the shamblers, and I'm still fine with that as a theme.

But when I got to the ending, it felt a little flat. Let me see if I can critique this without spoilers. The big emotional punch is a revelation about backstory. That's nice to tie together the ongoing correspondence we see that begins every chapter, but I feel like it's got to break some kind of writing rule. Why? I cared about what Jane was going to do in the present *because* of her backstory a lot more than new information about something she did long ago. On top of that, the protagonists get out of the mess they've been getting into in the last third of the book pretty easily, and within a few pages, shoop, there's setup for a sequel. I realize pretty much every genre fiction book these days sells with franchises in mind, no shame there, but I felt like it came at the expense of a satisfying climax. I might be interested in sequels, but unfortunately, it's a "might" for me instead of a "hoo-rah, yes." I hope the narratives of the series improve with the author's skill, because she's definitely got some, and I want to see where these characters and their world go. So... 3 out of 5.