March 3, 2010

Dawn of the Dreadfuls (REVIEW)


Dawn of the Dreadfuls (2010)

Steve Hockensmith

Quirk Books: 2010


4.5 / 5 zedheads

"It's actually The Zed Word I'm wondering about."
"Zombie? What of it?"
"Well, there it is again. You use it. Quite liberally."
"Why shouldn't I?"
"It's not polite."
"Oh, we can't have that, can we? We can't go around being impolite when we're about to be overrun with reanimated cadavers! Egad--the English!"
It's been a long time since a book was able to rouse a good, hearty laugh out of me, but Pride and Prejudice: Dawn of the Dreadfuls managed to do so repeatedly and consistently. Better than its predecessor (Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies), Steve Hockensmith's new novel offers genuinely laugh-out-loud moments, witty writing, and graphic descriptions of zombie grossness. Dawn of the Dreadfuls, which goes on sale March 23, 2010, certainly earns the right to be represented under the label of Quirk Classics!

Dawn of the Dreadfuls is the prequel to Quirk Books's unexpectedly successful literary mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Set before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls shows how the invasion of  polite 19th century society in Regency England by brain-hungry zombies (aka "dreadfuls") prompted the Bennett girls Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia to became the zombie-killing martial arts warriors of 17th century Herfordshire that we meet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Unlike Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Steve Hockensmith's novel is an entirely original work of writing. Seth Grahame-Smith essentially inserted his text into Austen's classic, but Hockensmith has taken Austen's characters and crafted an entirely new tale of zombie slaying and English courtship that introduces quirky new characters such as the limbless Captain Cannon; the martial arts trainer from the Orient, Master Hawksworth; and the hedonistic and salacious Lord Lumpley.

I tore through Dawn of the Dreadfuls in a matter of days. Its tone is playful but the story also embraces its zombie elements rather than simply using zombies as a gimmick. Sometimes ludicrous, sometimes horrific, and always entertaining, the novel is also far more accessible than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. On the one hand, Dawn of the Dreadfuls fails to capture the language and culture of Regency England; in fact, the novel has a plainly modern tone and point-of-view. On the other hand, the novel's modern humour and use of zombies makes the novel a great read for those who found Austen's prose too dense or outdated. In many ways, Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a better story because it is not limited to meshing with Austen's original text. If you liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but struggled with Austen's text, then Dawn of the Dreadfuls is for you! If you liked all of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but are looking for more humour and zombie slaying, then you'll devour Dawn of the Dreadful like a zombie at a brain trust. If you didn't like the concept of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at all, then you're probably no fun anyways.

In short, I highly recommend Dawn of the Dreadfuls to literature fans with a sense of humour. Hockensmith has done a remarkable job using Austen's characters to create an original narrative as prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This proves to me there's plenty of life left in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies franchise for more original fiction. I'm hungry to see Hockensmith come back for a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

And you too can get a taste with an advance copy of Dawn of the Dreadfuls courtesy of Quirk Books.

Follow the above link and mention you read about Dawn of the Dreadfuls from The Zed Word zombie blog to be entered for your chance to win one of 50 Quirk Classics Prize packs that includes:
  • A Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Journal
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Postcards
  • Audio Books of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
  • An advance copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls 
  • A password redeemable online for sample audio chapters of Dawn of the Dreadfuls 
  • A Dawn of the Dreadfuls Poster