Friday, March 25, 2011
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After (Steve Hockensmith)
Out in stores this week is the final installment of the Quirk Classic trilogy that began with Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and continued with Steve Hockensmith's own Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.
Dawn of the Dreadfuls only earned a 7.62 in its review here. While still a fairly high score, it's abysmal when compared to the 9.22 received by the original, the 9.17 received by Ben H. Winters' Android Karenina, and the 8.89 for Winters' Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. So, understandably, I was a little nervous heading into Dreadfully Ever After. Thankfully my apprehension was completely unnecessary.
P&P&Z was simply a retelling of Jane Austen's masterpiece Pride and Prejudice, a Regency-era tale of wit and romance surrounding one Mr. Bennet's five daughters, but with zombies. Dawn of the Dreadfuls acted as a prequel, shining light on the story behind the Bennet girls' martial arts upbringing. Dreadfully Ever After is the true sequel to P&P&Z that I think many people have been waiting for. The novel takes place several years after the marriage of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the final act of the original book. The Darcy's, once an abundantly happy couple, have fallen into a state of languor. Mrs. Darcy is depressed by the fact that it is not considered proper for a married woman in polite society to take up her sword and slay the undead. Mr. Darcy, ever the caring husband, is frustrated by his lack of ability to cheer up the woman he loves. All of this doubt and unhappiness is thrown brutally into their faces when Fitzwilliam Darcy is bitten by one of the sorry stricken. Elizabeth, mad with grief over the impending zombification of her husband, and feeling guilty over the fact that she could have prevented the tragedy had she been carrying her katana, pistols, or even a throwing star, accepts assistance from her most hated nemesis, running headfirst down a path of shame and subterfuge in an attempt to cure the good Fitzwilliam.
In Dreadfully Ever After, Steve Hockensmith is finally able to open himself up as a writer. With Dawn of the Dreadfuls, he was following up a huge success—one that had Jane Austen as a cowriter, no less—and was burdened even further by the fact that he was writing a prequel. Certain characters needed to be included, certain events needed to transpire, and certain questions needed to be answered. Not only that, but he wasn't really allowed to kill anyone important, which is always annoying. Dreadfully Ever After was essentially a blank slate for Hockensmith, and he made great use of the opportunity. While he remained true to each character's original motives, Hockensmith had the freedom to usher in growth for several of the Bennet sisters, making them much more interesting to read. Kitty Bennet, finally free from the shadow of her younger, but more headstrong, sister Lydia, makes great strides in self-discovery here. Even Mary, the middle Bennet sister—and certainly the most boring—is given new life and purpose. Hockensmith accomplishes all of this without any irrational character leaps or unexpected decisions; their progressions are fluid and natural.
Increased character growth isn't the only byproduct of Hockensmith's newfound freedom, though. No longer tied to points in a future story, the author physically takes the characters to new places as well. The plot is completely original, and introduces several new concepts and archetypes to the zombie mythos in general. While much of the story was predictable, especially the romantic attachments of several major characters, Hockensmith can only be applauded for maintaing that highly recognizable aspect of Austen's writing without the aid of a base text. At no point in time does anyone truly doubt that Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy will end up married in the original novel. The joy of the read comes from the journey that the two lovers take to reach each other. Such is the case with Dreadfully Ever After. It is crystal clear that certain characters are burdened by a mutual attraction, despite class, race, and, in some cases, wooden barriers. Watching characters slowly fall for each other in spite of themselves is always fun.
Before wrapping up, though, one point should be made absolutely clear: the story itself is fantastic. Hockensmith is much funnier this time around, which is probably another byproduct of his creative freedom. Austenian writing, already among the most tongue in cheek in history, is updated and zombified to the nth degree here. Add tremendous amounts of gore, ridiculous conspiracy theories, and attempted regicide, and you've got the recipe for a novel that could have easily stood out strongly on its own. As it happens, though, the book sports some of the most memorable and recognizable characters in all of literature. While having read the first two novels will certainly make this one more interesting—the original is a must-read anyway—Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After is actually perfectly enjoyable by itself. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After
by Steve Hockensmith
Honestly, I liked being able to predict certain aspects of the story. I was curious to see how smoothly Hockensmith could work everything into its final place. It also made the plot points that were unexpected even more of a surprise.
Very much what I was expecting thematically, but it was nice to see that the quality was there to support the tone. Also, Hockensmith introduces a few ingenious new concepts into the zombie world. Maybe they existed already, but I've never seen them, and I think he deserves credit for his originality.
This is not a difficult book to read. While it's fun and engaging, though, it is most definitely not for people who don't enjoy zombies. The other Quirk Classics could get away with it a bit, because they were more strictly based on classic literature, but this is its own story. That's part of the reason I enjoyed this one so much, but it's also part of the reason why some people might not want to check it out.
Be sure to go out and pick up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After now that it's out in stores! And just in case you've forgotten, here's a recap of all of the other Quirk Classics and their DG ratings!
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
More Jane Austen, but this time with a new coauthor!—8.89
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
by Steve Hockensmith
Prequel to the original, and Steve Hockensmith's first foray into Regency-era zombieness!—7.62
by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters
Ben H. Winters' second title, the first non-Austen Quirk Classic, and my personal favorite!—9.17
Keep reading, Genoshans!
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