You might expect the dead are rising from the battlefields of the American Civil War to change everything, but Justina Ireland uses Dread Nation to explore how minorities continue to be exploited. Jane is a pupil at Miss Prestonโ€™s School of Combat in Baltimore, receiving tuition in both scrambler killing and etiquette. If she graduates with flying colours, she will be able to take employment as an Attendant, protecting rich white women from unwanted attention, both from the undead and suitors.

Yes, despite the war between the living ending, black people are still don’t have their freedom. The Native and Negro Reeducation Act is based on a very real programme where America forcibly sent Native American children to special schools in order to be “civilised”.

As for a corset, well, every woman knows that wearing one of those things is pretty much suicide if you want to be able to fight effectively. A punctured lung if a stay goes awry, lost flexibility… I mean, how are you going to be able to do a reverse torso kick if you can’t even breathe?

I loved Dread Nation, so much. I have no idea why a UK publisher hasn’t picked it up. It transplants the horrors of the slave trade into a post-apocalyptic scenario. Jane may seem to have it good but her position is precarious, she must rely on the whims of the white people in power. The action goes from Baltimore to the frontier out west, where there is no place for the pleasantries of polite society and the rules are quite different.

Jane is the illegitimate daughter of a plantation owner’s wife and was lucky to survive. Each chapter starts with correspondence between Jane and her mother, along with flashbacks as Jane remembers her past, painting a picture of who her mother was. I liked their complicated relationship and there is a revelation that puts it all into context.

The person poking the dead ain’t always the one paying for it. In fact, most times, it’s the ones minding their own business who suffer.

I’d shy away from calling them friends, but her schoolmate Katherine is her rival for the top positions. She is paled skinned and could easily pass as white. Later on, her ability to pass helps to highlight the discrimination based on nothing more but skin colour.

The Survivalists take the place of Confederates, the very definition of white supremecists, they believe they survived because they are white and the black population’s purpose is to serve them. They want to rebuild America in their own image, using people of colour to get there. Jane and Katherine are expected to politely listen to so-called scientific lectures on how they are less than human. You will fume right by their side.

I know I am more than my skin colour.

I want to avoid going into too much detail on the plot because I was not expecting it to go where it does, but I loved every page. It is gripping, entertaining, thought-provoking and heart-breaking.

Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo: Undead

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery

Book Source: Purchased