Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Dreadfuls Have Returned!

Dawn of the Dreadfuls
~Dawn of the Dreadfuls~
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Book 1
By Steve Hockensmith
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Book Trailer

In 19th century England, society dictates that a young lady must be prim and proper. She must know proper etiquette, only speak on appropriate topics, maintain perfect posture at all times, and never ever appear at all like the opposite sex in any way shape or form.

By following these steps, your young lady will not only be the perfect target for a young, rich suitor, but for the approaching zombie horde as well.

Fortunately, Oscar Bennet has other plans for his daughters. Despite Lydia and Kitty's incessant gibbering and complaints, Mary's disinterest, and Jane's timidity, he is going to mold his daughters into warriors capable of defending themselves and all of Hertfordshire if necessary.

For Elizabeth Bennet, the second oldest of the sisters, the way of the warrior is coming surprisingly easily. As her deadly skill and the number of re-animated corpses increase, so too does her certainty that she'll never be fit as a bride. Not that she's seen any viable suitors thus far, but still, the dream of love is never too far from a proper lady's heart.

But can she still be considered a proper lady when her dress is stained with blood and her fingers grip a katana? Does she want to be? Will it even matter after the undead menace re-writes what is proper?

Yes, my friends, this is the beginning to the beginning of it all. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the original "Monster Mash-up", "Reinvented Classic", or simply "Quirk Classic", that sparked the phenomenon. A year later, Stephen Hockensmith decided to tackle the origins of the Bennet family and their experience with the unmentionables in this prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls.

Fans and critics of the original should notice that Jane Austen's name is not present on the cover of this book. In fact, the only places her name appears is in the back summary and the dedication. That is because this story is completely original. The iconic characters from the original classic are here, joined by some handsome and hilarious new faces, and there is certainly continuity between the prequel and the original as far as which characters are still alive, but past that everything is brand new.

I'll admit, I'm not a huge zombie fan. I'm not a fan of blood and gore in books, pictures, or movies - I've gotten light-headed from reading about blood transfusions or looking at pictures of syringes. That being said, I had no problem with Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Yes, there are descriptions of zombies in their full decaying horror, and more than a few violent encounters between the dead and the living, but I found the descriptions artistically tactful and most gore was accompanied with enough wry humor that I found it fun to read.

The language throughout the book is a mix between 19th century and 21st century, though I'd definitely say it leaned more toward the modern side. In terms of actual words, everything (except "zombie") was period appropriate, but in terms of speech and sentence composition, it was fairly modern. On the one hand, it's definitely easier to read, but die-hard Austen enthusiasts might find it less to their satisfaction.

To me, the title was a little bit misleading. When I think of the Dawn of something, I think of the very first occurrence. You know, Patient 0, for those more versed in zombie. Well, this was more Dawn of the Return of the Dreadfuls, because apparently England had already fought the undead some years ago and it was only in the past 5-or-so years that the precautions (decapitating all dead) had been repealed. So we didn't get to learn all the cool stuff about why or how the zombies started, only the origins of this latest wave and the Bennet family.

Speaking of which, I thought the Bennet family was handled extremely well! I know it can be hard to take pre-formed characters and try to have them believably perform new actions (have you read any FanFiction out there?). But I actually enjoyed reading about the Bennets and discovering new insights about them. Mary especially gained a lot from this exploration, as well as both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Oh my gosh, the whole Prudence/Cuthbert thing was hilarious! Okay, maybe a bit much, but it was enjoyable at least.

I think what most impressed me was Elizabeth's personal journey through the book. I remember wondering when I'd first read Jane Austen's classic why Lizzy was so cold toward everyone. I'll grant you she was certainly smarter than the majority of the eligible men would allow, but that alone didn't seem enough to account for her coldness toward the male sex. Here, Hockensmith gives us a believable tale of love and loss that provides the necessary background for Lizzy's attitude in the next novel. Okay, maybe not necessary, but certainly fitting. I mean, every heroine's gotta have a coming-of-age story, and I think this book made a great one.

Overall, Dawn of the Dreadfuls was an excellent read full of humor, wit, action, and zombie-mayhem. It is a must-read for any fan of the Monster Mash-ups or Quirk Classics, and a safe bet for zombie fanatics. I also think it's appropriate for YA readers who don't mind a little English romance with their flying body parts. Age-wise, it's definitely appropriate for anywhere from high school to adult—middle readers may have some issues with the violence and/or advanced language. The ultimate in zombie-infested prequels, this is an action-packed, fun-filled story of love, self-discovery, and feminism vs the undead.

Approximate Reading Time: 5 hours

Audiobook Review
Read by Katherine Kellgren
Length: 9 Hours
Listened at 1.8x Speed

Read with an English (or perhaps New-English) accent, it certainly helped set the tone of the story. The voice acting was superb, even among the male characters, though my favorites were definitely the Bennet sisters. All of them had distinct voices, even Kitty and Lydia who have very similar ways of speaking. The battle cries were a bit over-the-top in terms of volume, so do be wary of that if listening through earphones or a small car.

Nothing else really remarkable or horrible to report. I believe she continues through the next two books, though, so continuity-wise, a good job. I look forward to continuing with her shortly.