by Steve Hockensmith
I read this Quirk books latest from cover to cover within three train trips. It blows Pride and Prejudice and Zombies straight out the water with its originality, characters and sense of action. “Originality?… in a Jane Austen rehash!” you say. Well this isn’t any usual sort of rehashing. Instead of inserting Ninjas and dojos carelessly into the plot, Hockensmith weaves them through a completely fresh regency narrative. I am now a die-hard fan, and I honestly wasn’t expecting to like this in the slightest.
Not only are the illustrations absolutely superb, but the new (4-years prior to P&P) storyline is brilliant. The younger, slightly less self-assured, Lizzy is an absolute charmer and the other sisters all sit perfectly well within their characters. The opening few scenes could have done with some work (and it seems that the book only really picks up halfway through) but it reads easily and keeps you guessing about the motivations of the characters, with some subtle (and some not-so-subtle) clues about where the storyline is going. If you haven’t watched the Book Trailer yet (which is an awesome mini-movie) then do so, as that gets you right into the feeling of the book- although some of it isn’t really 100 per cent to DotD (more on that in another post coming soon!).
It begins with a zombie in Meryton, and then turns into an exploration of Mr. Bennet’s past in “The Troubles”, where the zombies attacked in abundance, which explains why he gets the girls trained in martial arts. The actual descriptions of their training, although specific at points, are generally vague and it seems to lose all track of time (they become fighting machines within 20 pages, I’d say). I love some of the small details- such as Lizzy’s enthusiasm about fighting and her really loud ‘HAAAIIIEEE’ battle cry.
Although I really liked this (perhaps because it was VERY much removed from the novel) other people have been saying that they preferred PPZ as it was more ‘Pride and Prejudice’-y, but I think that because it went so far to say it wasn’t meant to be Pride and Prejudice, it made itself more enjoyable. It’s the characters we love, at a different age, in a fantastically imaginative setting. For this reason, I’m not as distressed that Hockensmith ended up bumping Austen’s name from the cover, where Grahame-Smith included her (but don’t let that make you think she isn’t included, the book is dedicated “To Jane. We kid because we love.” I’m also doubting it will have the same success that PPZ has, if only because the title isn’t as quirky and people that haven’t directly heard of it won’t be too inclined to just pick it up.
Some of the characters lacked depth, such as the limbless Capt. Cannon and the irritating villain Lord Lumpley, but had quite interesting storylines attached to them. However, some of the new additions including Keckilpenny (the eccentric, but loveable doctor) and Hawksworth (the distant, intriguing martial-arts “master”) were fantastic and made me want to read entire books based on them. Unlike its Pride and Prejudice and Zombies soon-to-be-overdone counterpart, Dawn of the Dreadfuls was packed full of original comedy and action, and left you guessing right up until the last part. Unfortunately, the Regency side of things was very poorly done, but the grotesque illustrations (Patrick Arrasmith’s work) and descriptions of blackened zombie tongues more than made up for this.
If you like fast-paced action that has the same sort of feeling as Stephen King’s “Cell” then this is definitely a must-read for you! It has elements of romance and lust, fighting, death, intrigue and mystery- and all the while keeps you completely engrossed. Unfortunately, it isn’t a particularly long read and you find yourself wishing that there was a lot more of it. Although you already know that the Bennet family will survive and go on to their future selves in PPZ, it doesn’t detract from the scenes of violence, where you wonder if they will make it out full intact, and it definitely makes you worry for the characters that don’t occur in PPZ. It also offers explanations for why Lizzy becomes the way she does towards Mr. Darcy, but it offers no such explanation for Jane and the other girls’ ways. If anything, it seems a little inexplicable that they would be practically the same this many years prior! Where is the development here?
Overall though, I can’t really complain. It kept me occupied for a couple of train journeys, and I absolutely fell in love with Dr. Keckilpenny and Geoffrey Hawksworth. But, seriously here, which are you- team Keckilpenny or team Hawksworth? What did you think of it? And if you haven’t read it… why not? (Psst… you can even read the first couple of chapters free on an ereader e.g. Kindle, iPhone app etc) Apparently reading PPZ after DotD again is a great way to enjoy the first book more, so I think I’m going to re-read it.
In Gossip News: The Quirk Classics book site ‘Irreference’ put the phrase “Hint: Zombie babies” at the bottom of one of their posts. Am I thinking too deeply into this when I think there is going to be… a sequel? From what I can tell, that post isn’t very recent, but there isn’t much of the zombie-baby thing in DotD or PPZ.
Honourable mentions: The way they get around Jane’s over-niceness and get her to be human, and a warrior, at the same time. The way the cover ties in, if briefly, with the actual story.
Dishonourable mentions: Kitty’s character. I just couldn’t get into it at all. And some of the really bad plotclues that gave the whole game away.