Jul 02

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve HockensmithI should have posted a review of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls months ago. It was a wholly enjoyable book and I started reading it when it was released in March. For the delay, I cite personal reasons, although I think most Pride and Prejudice fans would agree. The problem: There is no Mr. Darcy.

Of course there isn’t. This is a prequel set before the characters are introduced to Mr. Favorite Literary Crush. But when I figured out he wasn’t in this book, I put it down and cried for a few months. Then took a deep breath, brought the book to the beach and loved it.

Of course I loved it. It’s funny zombie fiction. And it’s set in Regency England, where zombies aren’t just deadly, they’re an insult to good manners. The tight-lipped repulsion just leaps off the page.

Although it carries the same branding, P&P&Z: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a very different sort of book from P&P&Z. Rather than a literary mash-up of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s zombies and Jane Austen‘s prose, the book is original fiction by Steve Hockensmith. I had never read his other books and, although it appears that he’s a newcomer to zombie-fic, his humorous historical fiction has received much praise. Hockensmith’s writing is accessible and engaging, bringing a lightness to the P&P&Z franchise that should make it attractive to those turned off by Jane Austen’s profuse punctuation and pontification.

Dawn of the Dreadfuls begins at a funeral, when the body rudely awakens and reminds Hertfordshire of the dormant zombie plague it ought not to mention. As the undead continue to stumble from their graves, Mr. Bennet is forced to train his five daughters to be ninja warriors like himself — with the help of the handsome, strapping Master Hawksworth. Despite the dearth of Mr. Darcy, Hockensmith creates plenty of male characters to match up with Austen’s swarm of females, each of them flawed in ways that thankfully allow the ladies to kick lots of zombie butt.

Unlike in P&P&Z, the zombies are not an after-thought — or perhaps a never-thought on the part of co-author Austen (a point that I suppose is debatable). The zombies in Dawn of the Dreadfuls are plentiful and, as in most zombie books, the horde size increases with the page number. The black and white engravings also help to bump up the zombie-quotient, although I would rate the gore in this book as slightly less than in P&P&Z.

Overall, P&P&Z: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a fresh, fun zombie book: a historical rom-zom-com with ninjas too. I give it 4.5 brains out of 5.

4.5 out of 5 brains

Related Posts:
P&P&Z: Dawn of the Dreadfuls Book Trailer & Author Interview
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies Was Pretty Good

Tagged with:
Mar 29

The book trailer for the P&P&Z prequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls came out recently and it’s all kinds of awesome. I personally hadn’t decided whether or not to check out the book — this just might just have won me over.

EW.com has a great interview with Dawn of the Dreadfuls author Steve Hockensmith, who discusses the mixed critical reaction to the first Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith):

You see the lovahs and you see the hatahs. And yeah, there were definitely some haters out there, and I’m sure they’re still there. It’s something that I can totally understand, it’s not something I look askance at, at all. Somebody having a cynical reaction when they find out that something that really means a lot to them, their beloved ex, is about to be lovingly satirized. I can understand how people can be a little defensive about things that they feel are near and dear to their hearts, but I would say, having thrown all that out there, that I think a lot of those people were actually won over when they read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Not all of them. I would hope, actually, that some of the folks that weren’t won over, would actually respond better to my book, because it isn’t a mash-up. [From EW.com]

Hockensmith makes an excellent point: Most of the hatas were not fans of Jane Austen, and therefore hated the prose. Or, they were huge Austen fans, and hated zombies. If someone isn’t open to both aspects of the mash-up, it’s lost. Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a new thing entirely: Historical zombie fiction. Oh yes.

Tagged with:
Dec 16

Needless to say, we’re totally psyched that Natalie Portman will produce and star in the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies film.

Here’s a quick Six-Degrees to Jane Austen: Natalie Portman played Queen Amidala in Star Wars, Episode I, in which Kiera Knightly played Sabe, who dressed as the queen. Kiera Knighly also played Elizabeth Bennet (the lead character) in the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice. Not to mention, Natalie Portman totally kicks ass. Perfect casting, right?

Tagged with:
Apr 21

BreathersThe biggest problem with Breathers, a great new zombie book released last month, could be that no one knows what genre it belongs to. It’s about zombies, but it’s not exactly a horror book. It has romance, but it’s no love story. It’s a dark comedy, sure, but it’s more than that. Some reviews are calling Breathers a Rom-Zom-Com, short for a zombie romantic comedy, but even that seems like a stretch.

Breathers is contemporary, humorous and sophisticated. If it weren’t for the zombies, this book would be on the shelf next to Nick Hornby‘s latest and Fight Club. Why? Because I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the genre it belongs to is the poorly understood male ennui: A bored man struggles through a depressing existence, eventually learning how to take back his own life. Except the main character is a zombie, so he’s actually taking back his undeath.

And there’s no mistaking it — Breathers is definitely a zombie book. The story is told in first-person by Andy, a rotting corpse that lives in his parents’ wine cellar after reanimating, wandering out of the mortuary and getting locked up with the other itinerant undead at the SPCA. Between dull days and nights of watching bad television while drinking expensive wine and shampoo, Andy commiserates with other zombies at Undead Anonymous. Hilarity and poignancy ensue.

Breathers is cool and fresh new fiction. It’s the kind of zombie book you could loan to your mother. As long as your mother is okay with a little violence, irreverence and necrophilia — assuming it’s necrophilia if both parties are dead. Or undead. Whatever.

I’m giving Breathers five brains, then subtracting a half brain because, like zombies, the book starts off a tad slow but will get you in the end.

4.5 out of 5 brains

Further reading: Breathers has a pretty cool web page, Undead Anonymous, which has some good literature on coping with undeath.

Tagged with:
Apr 08

Today is the official release date of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen. As I mentioned last week, I was super excited to read it. I’m actually a bigger fan of Austen than I generally admit, so combined with my love of zombies, I thought I’d be the perfect demographic.

The problem is that I might just be too big a fan of Austen and too big a fan of zombies to fully appreciate the combination. It’s like making a sandwich with peanut butter and bacon. They’re both delicious on their own, but together?

I know people were saying all this before the book came out, but I didn’t believe them. Because, you know, everything is better with zombies. And the zombies in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are great. There just aren’t enough of them. But, to make room for the zombies, there is also less of Darcy and Elizabeth, the characters that make Pride and Prejudice so lovable. As a result, romance and mayhem are in competition.

That said, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was thoroughly enjoyable. It was funny and gruesome and had lots of ninja vs. zombie action. Grahame-Smith’s interpretation of Regency England included ongoing humor about vomit and balls. (Historical note: “Balls” once referred to social gatherings at which guests danced, rather than, “heheh, balls.”) Really, I couldn’t put the book down.

Grahame-Smith’s literary mashup, though not wholly seamless, is a fun and fantastical take on the Austen’s classic novel. Austen was a progressive woman with a sense of humor, but she feared that Pride and Prejudice was “rather too light, and bright, and sparkling.” Had she lived in modern times, maybe she would have realized that zombies were exactly the soiling the novel needed. Maybe.

I’m giving the book four brains out of five.
4 brains out of 5

Tagged with:
Apr 01

Although Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not due to release until April 8, some booksellers are selling the book in advance. Publishers are usually not happy with these unofficial pre-releases because they can lower the book’s first week sales, but they can also increase buzz if the feedback from early sales is good.

I am personally thrilled with P&P&Z‘s accidental pre-release — it means I got my copy last night!! I’ll post a review here once I’m done, and hell, I’m so psyched, I’m even posting pictures of my book after the jump.

For those stuck waiting till the official release, the publisher has released the first three chapters online for free, and more reviews are pouring in. Boing Boing recently gave the book a mixed review, but this is mostly because Cory Doctorow doesn’t like Jane Austen. I am an Austen fan and am loving the book so far.

Continue reading »

Tagged with:
Feb 18

thelivingdeadI recently picked up The Living Dead, edited by John Joseph Adams, an anthology of zombie-themed fiction that includes stories by authors such as Stephen King, George R. R. Martin and Clive Barker.

The Living Dead offers a fresh take on zombie fiction. These are stories that you’ll enjoy for their literary value as much as for their zombie mayhem. They include great characters, great ideas and great writing.

Although The Living Dead provides its share of Romero-style zombies, there are also some new and liberal interpretations of the zombie theme. Some stories feature zombies can think and talk (“Beautiful Stuff” by Susan Palwick), characters that have been influenced by zombies in popular culture (“Everything is Better with Zombies” by Hannah Wolf Bowen) or zombies that might not really be zombies (“The Dead Kid” by Darrell Schweitzer).

Adams’ compilation is might not be the most zombie-bang for your buck (although there definitely is some R-rated zombie banging), but it is a must-read for anyone watching as zombies amble and claw their way into popular culture.

Tagged with: