It is evident that much care and research went into this debut novel, which treats zombies as, well, humans — because they are (or were). The undead are given a life cycle of their own, full memories of their living existence and a thorough system of values and ethics, all of which compels readers to regard them not as mere monstrous automatons after your brains, but as creatures remarkably similar to us (it’s a myth, by the way, that zombies eat brains). Dust is an extraordinary achievement, and must not be missed.
Dust envisions a world in which the undead have always existed in uneasy but adaptable conditions with living humans. Their story is told through Jessie, who died in a car accident as a teenager several years ago and now runs with one of the prominent undead gangs in what was once Calumet County. The gang avoids human contact until they stumble upon a man-made virus that turns humans into zombies without killing them — to say nothing of the effects of the virus on the undead themselves. (ACE, Sep., 384 pp., $24.95)