After the giant cliffhanger ending of the second book, the third and last volume in the series starts with Squid, the young orphan who is the main protagonist, being sucked dry by the ghouls. It was a giant cliffhanger for the second book to end. Nim, Squid’s Aboriginal friend, is in the same situation and they’re both trying to find a way to get out of it alive – without turning into ghouls themselves.
Ghouls in this world are basically zombies that drain humans of their fluids. Once you’re bitten, you turn into one of them. Squid and Nim found the vaccine at the end of book two but didn’t know how it worked. They thought it killed the ghouls when, in fact, it protects humans from them and destroys any ghoul that drinks from a vaccinated human.
From the start of book three, you know there is already hope for a solution to the problem that destroyed the whole of Australia, and maybe the world. But the boys’ path toward saving what’s left of their town is filled with dangerous twists and turns.
Aside from the ghouls, there are also religious zealots who follow the ultimate antagonist – a High Priestess who is just a tilt away from insanity. They’ve walled up the city of Alice to prepare for the ghoul attack, leaving all the other residents outside the wall to fend for themselves.
Squid and Nim have to reach the city before the horde of ghouls reaches it first, destroying everyone, including their best friend Lynn.
I’m a card-carrying member of the zombie fan club and I’ve read a lot of books in this genre. But what got me the first time I read A Town Called Dust was its distinct Australian flavour. It separates itself from the other books in this genre because of this. Also, there are pirates in this series – in the sky. Just when you think the protagonists’ lives can’t get any harder, you get pirates.
There are serious elements incorporated in this series as well. There is a subtle discussion on the marginalisation of Aboriginal communities. The church is also all-powerful, basically controlling the whole of the Northern Territory – a mirror on what is happening today in places where religion has too much power over people. Woolley’s world is depressing but makes for a good series.
This final book ties everything up quite well. If you love the dystopian zombie genre, you can’t go wrong with this series.
Kristyn M. Levis is a freelance writer, author and photographer based in Sydney. She is currently the managing editor of Her Collective. Her first novel, The Girl Between Two Worlds, will be published this year.