It’s an Unholy Night!

Sacralicious!

Seth Grahame-Smith first lurched into our homes with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in 2009.

In 2010, he took a swing at presidential shenanigans with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

It’s now 2012, and he’s leading us on an exodus to a land that’s much less Holy than we were led to believe…

Justin Cronin’s The Twelve gets a release date.

Of all the books I didn’t review last year, the one I most regret was Justin Cronin’s The Passage Not only was it a post-apocalyptic story with a vampiresque feel, the writing was brilliant and had a vein of seriousness not often seen in a horror novel.  Awhile back I heard Cronin was writing a sequel but it was only today that I became aware of a release date.  Lovers of The Passage will be pleased to note that The Twelve will be released October 16th of this year.  

Thanks to EW.com for the heads up!

Also important to note:  Ridley Scott’s production company has optioned all three books of the eventual trilogy for $1.75 million.  Let’s hope they don’t muck it up.

Ex Heroes–Peter Clines

“If we do this, if you want my help with it, it isn’t some stupid selection process where we pick and choose a few hundred who we decide are worth it.  We just save everyone we can.”

 St. George, a.k.a. ‘”he Dragon”, a.k.a. George Bailey (seriously?), is an ex-hero.  Just a year before, he was the darling of humanity, saving the innocent from the not so innocent of Los Angeles and making headlines everywhere he went.  Whether rescuing a woman from being raped in an alley, smacking around some gang bangers on the prowl, or attempting to deal with a strange biological outbreak that re-animates the dead, he was the best at what he did.  And what he did was be a hero.  Invulnerable, invincible, the result of a freak lab accident, the Dragon kept the city from falling into anarchy, aided by a cadre of fellow super-humans, all of whom developed their powers in the recent past.

There was Gorgon, whose gaze would tap the life force of others and convert it into super strength.  Zzap, a cripple, confined to a wheelchair, capable of becoming a being of pure energy, blessed with all the powers of a God.  Imagine the Sun with a personality.   Cerberus–a girl and her power armor.  The Regenerator—I think that one would be self explanatory.  And then there was Stealth, the supermodel vigilante, combining genius level intelligence with supermodel level sensuality.  

I did say ex-heroes though, didn’t I? 

What happens to a hero when all he (or she) has vowed to protect is gone?  When the situation goes from bad to worse (to worst) and it’s no longer a matter of keeping humanity safe, but rather keeping humanity alive?  And what could possibly bring such a situation to pass? Peter Clines’ EX-HEROES answers those questions with one answer. 

Yep, you guessed it…the answer is Zombies.

Bouncing back and forth between the times before and after the zombie apocalypse, EX-HEROES chronicles the exploits of those few super heroes that have managed to survive (they’re not the only “ex-heroes” in this story), trying to maintain a small enclave of humanity that remains uninfected.   Day by day they struggle against the hordes of undead clogging the streets of Los Angeles, ever watchful for the appearance of their undead brethren.  Dead superheroes have no control over their powers, but they have them nonetheless.

At the same time, several of their members are trying both to trace the source of the outbreak and to find a cure (or at least a vaccine) for those who are left.  They’ve known for some time that if you die—you turn.  What they don’t know is that one of them has intimate knowledge of how the outbreak began.  Complicating their search is the competition, a loose coalition of former gangs united under the aegis of “The Seventeens” who have fought tooth and nail with the heroes for the spoils of a dead civilization.  So far, it’s a dead heat.

When my copy of EX-HEROES arrived in the mail, I got a little worried.  Wrapped in an almost amateurishly bound trade paperback, it appeared as though I had been snookered into reading another author’s self-publication.  Thank God I got beyond that.  What I found inside was a first rate blend of apocalyptic zombie fiction, combined with some good old fashioned super-heroism. 

When I say old fashioned, I don’t mean to imply that the heroes are black and white cookie cutter caricatures—they’re real people, simply blessed with extraordinary abilities.  As is the fashion these days, the lines between good and evil are blurred, and no character is without flaw.  Whether it’s Stealth’s lack of empathy, or the Regenerator’s apparent cowardice, Clines treats his superheroes as flawed beings–much like the rest of us.  Hell, some of them aren’t even likeable—but then who said superheroes had to be nice?

Of course, like every good zombie novel, there’s a twist, which I’ll leave you to get to on your own. 

Once you’re done with this zombies vs. superheroes mash-up, never fear.  The fun continues in Cline’s sequel, Ex-Patriots.

Sherlock Holmes and the Zombie Problem–Nick S. Thomas

“It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.”~Dr John Watson.

 

 

 

 

Zombies are the least of the problems encountered in Sherlock Holmes and the Zombie Problem by author Nick S. Thomas.  Bad writing can usually be overcome by a decent plot, but sometimes you run into stuff like this:

“Shocked and in fear I stumbled to my feet and withdrew across the room, two more shots rang out from Holmes’ gun, one hitting the attacker in the shoulder, the other missing, it had no effect.”

 or this:

 “I ripped the cabinet open, taking up my recently purchased rifle, a wonder I now was pleased to have purchased just a few months before, an 1881 model Marlin under lever rifle, kept for this very type of situation which I had hoped to never face but prepared for anyway.”

Let me just say that if you’re not willing to write proper sentences, then I am not willing to read your book. 

It’s a shame really, as the idea of Sherlock Holmes fighting a Zombie horde unleashed upon him by the nefarious James Moriarty is something I’m totally on-board with.  A great idea, but in this case so poorly executed that (for the first time ever) I could not finish the novel. 

That’s how bad it is. 

If you can’t write a page without a run on sentence, then I would suggest either a refresher course in grammar, finding a half decent editor–or a career change.

Monster Hunter Alpha–Larry Correia tries his hand at viral Marketing

 Larry Correia’s third book in the Monster Hunter series comes out today.  Monster Hunter Alpha tells the back-story of Earl Harbinger, MHI’s resident Hunter/Closet Werewolf, a  story that’s been begging to be told since way back in ’07 when Monster Hunter International was first released.

Larry’s generated a lot of fans with this kick-ass series about a bunch of civilian contractors (read that as mercenaries) who help keep the world safe from those things that go “bump” in the night, and those fans propelled the second novel, Monster Hunter Vendetta to #27 on the New York Times bestseller’s list.  Pretty impressive.

He’s also a guy who’s not shy about promoting himself or his product.  Hey, why not?  Writers write for the love of the craft, but they’ve also got to eat.  So, about a month ago, he put out the call for all us MHI fans to put out the word, “if you’re going to buy the third installment, buy it the first week.”

Why the first week? 

It’s all about stats. 

From what I’ve read on the subject, the surest (and only) way to get on the NYT’s bestseller’s list is to sell a whack of books the first week after publication.  Larry does a better job of explaining it than I can:

 “Now, on the preorder or release week thing, let me explain. Here is a little peek behind the curtain into the publishing industry.  This is a very competitive business. Making it onto a bestseller list spurs future sales and boosts your career. The biggest and toughest one to get on is the NYT. MHV made it to #27 when it came out.

Some of you may remember when I went around with an idiot about how this meant that I wasn’t a *real* bestseller. Let me break this down. The NYT is broken up into fiction, non-fiction, and young adult. We’re looking at fiction. The NYT only shows the top 35 fiction books in three categories. (hardcover, trade paperback, and mass market paperback).  So I’m competing against every paperback fiction book on sale in the country.   

This next part is important. It is based on books sold during that week.  So you can have a book that sells ten thousand copies in a week, and zero copies the rest of the year. That book will be a NYT bestseller. You can have another book that only sells a thousand copies that week, but sells a thousand every other week of the year. That book will sell way more copies than the first one, but it will not make the NYT.  That’s called velocity. 

The velocity part is why the release week (and the preorders that ship that week) are so very important.  A book will normally sell the most when it first comes out.  So, barring something that comes along later to cause a bunch of publicity (Movie adaptation, Oprah book club) you either make the list when you release or not at all.”

So, what does all that mean for us fans of the series?  It means, if you’re going to buy the book, or are just thinking about it, get off your duff and buy it NOW.  You’ll be doing yourself (and him) a favour.  If you’ve never read the books and are simply looking for something new in the horror/fantasy/awesome stuff category, you can’t go wrong picking up all three.  Hours of monster hunting fun.

Now, before I get accused of being a shill, let it be said that I’ve already bought my copy of Monster Hunter Alpha and am waiting impatiently by the mailbox for it to arrive, so there’s no conflict of interest or monetary gain/kickback or whatnot.  I’m hopping on the viral marketing bandwagon because it’s a good idea (from a marketing standpoint), because they’re great books (if you’re into that sort of thing), and as a fan, I’d like to help out.

 If you’d like more insight into Larry Correia’s books, views, and publishing schedule, check out  his blog at Monster Hunter Nation.

John Dies at the End–David Wong

“And watch out for Molly.  See if she does anything unusual.  There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.” ~David Wong.

Man, no kidding.  Having your dog explode can sure mess with a dude’s head.  Yet that is far from the weirdest thing that happens in David Wong’s sadistically, hilariously, horrifying(ly) great novel, John Dies at the End.

I finished this novel a couple of weeks back, but still feel like I have a hangover.  The good kind, like when you wake up after a night of drinking, roll over, and there’s a beautiful brunette lying beside you.  The kind of hangover that’s worth it.  Having said that, trying to describe this book, hell, even just a brief synopsis, seems an impossible task.  Bear with me–maybe I should start at the beginning.

So, there’s these two dudes, David Wong and the aforementioned John, living the lives of your average twenties.  McJob down at the video store, partying in their spare time, trying to meet hot chicks that are willing to, if not have sex with them, at least talk to them.  Well, Dave is–John doesn’t seem to have much of a problem in that department.  He’s in a band, and as we all know, when you’re barely out of your teens, shit like that seems cool.  Especially to the ladies.

John also likes to party, never having seen a drug he’s been unwilling to try.  After what might be called the “worst trip in history” courtesy of a Rastafarian drifter (whose magic tricks are suspiciously convincing) they meet at a local bush party, life for these two slackers will never be the same again. *Note to reader–never put your buddy’s used syringe in your pocket.

You see, the drug,”soy sauce,” doesn’t just mess you up–it breaks down the wall between Universes and makes a laughingstock of the rules of time.  Oh, and it’s alive.

Next thing you know, both Dave and John are down at the police station answering questions from some very perturbed cops trying to explain why they have five dead (gruesomely dead) and four missing, courtesy of  a party they know John was at.  Dave is tripping pretty good, reading the cop’s mind (Morgan Freeman, he calls him) and worrying about Jennifer Lopez (real name, not the actress), the girl he has a crush on and also one of the missing.  At that point, “Morgan” steps out of the room (apparently John has died and it’s not even the end) and Dave realizes the other cop is not what he seems.  Being attacked by a mustache (yep, you read that right) will do that to you.

From there it’s a blistering ride as Dave manages to escape the jailhouse, return to the scene of the crime, find a dog (who at one point appears to be possessed by John), get shot, get abducted to Vegas with the other missing by an acolyte of “Korrok” (more on him later), witness the creation of a wormhole to another Universe and manage to close the wormhole with the help of a preacher turned magician (Dr. Albert Marconi) and a stirring rendition of a song by John’s band Three Armed Sally: “Camel Holocaust.”  That’s just the first act.

Korrok is the villain of the tale, either an elder god along the lines of Cthulu…or a sentient biological computer run amok in an alternate Universe.  Either way, it wants into our Universe and if Dave, John, and a few other players cannot thwart its plans…well, we’re all fucked.  Korrok has agents everywhere, known as the shadow people, has replaced many of the residents of “Undisclosed” with what can only be called replicants, and an acolyte with the charming nickname of “Shitload” trying to advance its agenda of Universal domination.  All of them.

Of course, there is a girl, Amy, the one-handed sister of big Jim Sullivan (deceased) and probably the only reason Dave will do his best to save the world–not that he knew this when he first met her.

I’m not doing justice to the story with this abbreviated synopsis, but it’s just too convoluted to sum up succinctly and there’s no need to spoil the fun for you.  I will say that John Dies at the End meanders at times, and reads like just a bunch of stuff that happened to these two dudes, although technically it’s Dave telling his story to a skeptical journalist.  Having been written haphazardly as a series of blog posts since 2001 and ballooning into a 466 page book by the time of its publishing, it seems an understandable complaint–and yet bears no relevance to whether the reader will enjoy the novel.

From start to end it’s a huge mindf*ck (sorry, I can’t think of a better term), and every time you think you’ve got your head wrapped around the storyline, something happens to make you question where the hell this is going and what actually happened before.  I was within a hundred pages of the end of the novel and began to get worried that there was no satisfactory way to tie up the loose ends in the amount remaining.  Really worried.

And then he did it.

One spoiler…if John dies at the end, then it’s not at the end of this book. David Wong claims to be hard at work on the sequel but for now we’ll have to be satisfied by the upcoming movie.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After- Steve Hockensmith

Darling, you’ve lost weight!

“You can have your precious honor or you can have your precious Darcy.  One or the other must be set upon the pyre. Which it shall be I leave to you.” ~Lady Catherine De Bourgh.

Traditionally, the hallmark of a great play is the three act structure, and every novel must have a beginning, a middle, and an end (unless you’re into crappy stream-of consciousness).  However, when the material cannot be sufficiently covered over the course of a novel, writers seem drawn to the idea of a trilogy.   Recently, Stieg Larsson’s  Millenium Trilogy has enthralled readers, and while not originally published as a trilogy, few would think of The Lord of the Rings otherwise.  So, when Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (apologies to Jane) took off up the charts, what better way to bookend his work than to transform it into a trilogy?

The prequel, P & P & Z: Dawn of the Dreadfuls was a delightful introduction to the Bennett clan, a wittily crafted back story to the events of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and a nifty explanation of how things came to be the way they are in the “Z-land” that is Regency England.  Or Dreadful England, whichever you prefer.  And yet, one must wonder what happened to Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy after they conquered his pride and her prejudice.  Did they settle down in wedded bliss, marred only by the occasional ninja attack or Dreadful invasion?  Was Elizabeth able to content herself with the domestic life, forbidden from practicing her martial arts by the conventions of polite society?  Well wonder no more, because the answer lies in the sequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After.

It is a time of hopeful optimism, for the Regency is to become a Monarchy again.  The madness of King George III has abated, and his re-coronation is anticipated by aristocracy and peasantry alike.  For Elizabeth Bennett, it should be a happy time, married to a man she loves, living a life of relative comfort…yet something is amiss.  Born and bred a warrior, she finds herself unable to indulge in her necrocidal urges, restrained by the sense and sensibility that must be adhered to as the wife of a nobleman.  Decapitating Dreadfuls just isn’t accepted as a skill set  a married women may practice.  Darcy understands her discontent, but finds himself unable to lighten the mood, and Elizabeth spends many a day roaming the moors in hopes of a lethal (not for her) encounter.

Yet when that encounter comes, it is Darcy who is delivered the fatal blow, the death sentence that accompanies even the slightest nibble from the recently re-animated.  Under the threat of losing the man who means everything to her, thoughts of discontent with her position in life vanish, and lead to a bargain with her personal nemesis…her aunt (through marriage), the lady Catherine De Bourgh.  It is to Darcy’s fortune, but Elizabeth’s misfortune, that her oldest enemy might hold the key to his survival in the form of, if not a cure, a stopgap until one can be found.  Elizabeth must swallow her pride and overcome her prejudice if she is to save her soul mate.

Of course, there is a price.  Catherine De Bourgh is a lady in name only, and suggests a course of action that might save Darcy, yet humble Elizabeth.  In London there is a doctor working on a cure for the Dreadful scourge, but he will not readily give up his secrets.  Subterfuge and seduction are the route to Darcy’s salvation, by way of  treachery and deception, shame and ignoble acts for Elizabeth and her family. And while they are gone, no one would expect lady De Bourgh to be idle, nor her daughter Anne.  Treachery abounds.  So off to London Elizabeth goes, in the guise of a wealthy (new money that is) spinster and accompanied by her uncouth father and sister (Hello Kitty!)

A word about London in the time of the Dreadfuls.  It is a place of walls, a fortress city, subdivided into fortified districts, tied together only by the amazing sewer system that winds its way under the city.  A place of dandies and fops, Dreadful races (literally…it does not pay to be Irish unless you can outrun a zombie) and Bedlam, both literal and figurative.  In this “hospital”, residing in the sinister section twelve central, is the cure they seek, and with the help of a daring plan, sisterly love and a few ninjas, they must breach its walls if there is any hope of obtaining the cure.

 

The irony of this novel is that it is not so much the story of Elizabeth and Darcy as it is the coming of age of her younger sister Kitty, historically characterized as a boy hungry air head, and the humanization of her elder sister, the ever sanctimonious and bookish Mary.  Away from the influence of the truly vacuous Lydia, Kitty is able to assert her own character, that of a young woman who looks at life in a light-hearted way, yet has an underlying sense of, well…sense.  As for Mary, once parted from her precious books and challenged by a mysterious protector as she attempts (on her own) to discover the secrets of Bedlam, her sharp edges are softened (unlike her blades) and she develops a softer touch.  For both Kitty and Mary, romance appears when least expected.

The author also introduces a variety of  antagonists for the Bennetts, from the  Monty Pythonesque Angus MacFarquhar, a mirthless scientist capable of hideous depravity (and considerable racism) in his quixotic quest to cure the land of their “troubles,” to the treacherous, yet troubled Nezu, leader of Catherine Debourgh’s ninjas.  And then there is the mysterious beggar in a box, an agent with an agenda of his own.

What I always love about a Hockensmith novel is not so much the storylines (they are great!) but rather the approach to language.  Witticisms and double entendre’s abound, and make for a smart, yet hilarious take on an otherwise somber subject.  Death and mayhem are infused with a sense of both the ludicrous and hilarious, and there were many moments when I chuckled out loud at either the banter or the situations the characters find themselves in.  My biggest complaint (probably the only one) is that the novel is not longer.  I could have read another hundred pages of the exploits of the Bennetts before coming to the conclusion and it was with a sense of both satisfaction and regret that I finally put down the book.  Like a great trilogy, it has a sense of completeness, but also leaves open the possibility of further adventures.

Steve himself speculated on the subject in a nice little interview over at Daemon’s books back in April.

And, like all Quirk Classics, it has its own  trailer:

 

 
*bloggers note:  In my short time as a reviewer, I’ve discovered that advanced copies of new novels are hard to come by up here in the great white North (yes, folks, Canada).  Publishing houses and promotional blogs simply won’t ship across the border, and for the life of me, I don’t know why.  When he saw me moaning on the subject, Steve stepped up and sent a copy for review, for which I thank him.    However, life got in the way and I have finally posted much later than expected, for which I apologize. 
 
My penance?  Downloading a copy of Naughty: Nine tales of Christmas Crime, which, when I think about it, really wasn’t any sort of punishment at all.  Trust me.
 
He also maintains a blog at stevehockensmith.com that is well worth a visit.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:The Movie

Elizabeth was not at all happy with her body double.

 Okay, technically this isn’t a “literary” post, but considering that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is soon to be a motion picture, I’m bending the rules a bit.

Moving on.

Entertainment Weekly announced yesterday on their Inside Movies blog (story by Anthony Breznican) that the upcoming zombie flick has a director signed on in the person of Craig Gillespie, formerly director of such films as Lars and the Real Girl and the remake of Fright Night.  Principle filming is planned to begin at the end of summer 2011.  David O. Russell was originally set to direct, but backed out over what was described as a “budget dispute” (his or the film, I do not know), however, according to Gillespie, he will be working from a script penned by the former director.

Some thoughts:

David O. Russell sounded like the perfect director, coming off the Oscar-winning film, The Fighter, but as often happens, things simply didn’t pan out.  Gillespie (to me) is a bit of an unknown element, but Lars and the Real Girl managed an 81% freshness rating on rottentomatoes.com so that can’t be bad.

In the same interview, Gillespie claims that the roles of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy have yet to be cast.  However, back in December of 2009, Natalie Portman’s name was attached as producer and star.  As things stand though, and according to her IMDB listing, there appears to be no connection to the upcoming feature.  I highly doubt there’s a dearth of English actresses capable of taking on the role, so there’s that.  All in all good news for those looking to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies lurch from page to big screen!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

“Of all the weapons she had commanded, Elizabeth knew the least of love; and of all the weapons in the world, love was the most dangerous.”

 It’s always a crapshoot to re-envision a classic.  For every Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly, there’s a Starship Troopers starring Casper van Diem.  It’s even more of a crapshoot to take the original author’s vision and totally turn it on its head.  So, it was with much curiosity that I picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith: copyright 2009, Quirk Books) Seth Grahame-Smith’s take on the seminal tale of the five Bennett sisters and their search for love and security in 18th century England.  It certainly takes a large amount of pride to assume oneself capable of taking a classic romance, mashing in a few zombies and some kick ass eastern fighting styles, and bringing forth what could only be described as a horrifying romance that captures the original author’s intent…but Seth Grahame-Smith was apparently the man for the job.

I imagine that anyone with a passing interest in literature has at least heard of the tale of the Bennett sisters, specifically Elizabeth, and her interactions with the mercurial Mr. Darcy.  One has an overabundance of pride, and the other finds the man’s pride so odious that she develops such a prejudice (yes, I know, hence the title) against him that the reader is left wondering how these two so obviously unsuited lovers can possibly get together. (Full disclosure–Pride and Prejudice  has been on my “to read” list for pretty much ever)  From what I gather on the subject, the original novel is a damning expose of 18th century convention and the wall between social classes, and even within them.  This version has a little fun with it.

So, let’s start with a short synopsis and go from there:

It’s been a few years since the events of Dawn of the Dreadfuls and the Bennett sisters have followed in their father’s footsteps, each of them travelling to the Orient to learn the ways of the Shaolin monks, a decidedly unladylike  action made necessary by the resurrection of the Dreadful menace, which has only gotten worse since the events of the prequel.  England is in a state of perpetual siege at the hands of the undead. London has become a walled fortress and travel around the countryside (unless it’s the dead of Winter–note to reader–the undead freeze) is a perilous affair.  However, life must go on, and the matriarch of the Bennett family is always on the lookout for possible suitors for her daughters.  With the re-habitation of Netherfield Park by the handsome (and very rich) Mr. Bingley, Mrs. Bennett sees a chance to both assure a future of comfort for her eldest daughter Jane, and by extension, the Bennetts.  When Jane endeavours to visit the Bingley’s and falls ill, Elizabeth is sent to watch over her recovery and during the course of the vigil, interacts with Fitzwilliam Darcy, whom she already has developed a grudge against, based on her initial observations at a local ball.

It’s hate at first sight, tempered by a certain appreciation of his martial qualities–ie.  he kills Zombies.  Elizabeth has devoted herself to a life of protecting her family and friends from the undead menace, telling herself that her duty allows no time for love, yet finds herself curiously drawn to Darcy.  However, events, as they often do in romance novels, conspire to keep the lovebirds apart.  The lies of Darcy’s childhood friend George Wickham influence Elizabeth greatly, as does Darcy’s treacherous (or so it seems) behaviour in coming between Jane and Charles Bingley.

All right, I’m already bored.  Suffice it to say that the reimagination of Austen’s work stays true to the original storyline, within limits.  However, Smith manages to seamlessly blend the horrific elements into the storyline, and adds a certain amount of bawdy humour that I doubt was in the original (not that Austen wasn’t a wit, it’s just that his additions are crude enough that I cannot believe Austen would have thought of them).

Examples abound of Smith’s somewhat bawdy additions to the original storyline.  When Elizabeth asks Mr. Darcy his opinion on the subject of balls (the formal dances), he responds with:

“…I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones.”

Elizabeth’s reply:

“On the contrary, I find that balls are much more enjoyable when they cease to remain private.”

Zoinks!  Double entendre anyone?

Later, when Elizabeth is entertaining Lady Catherine Debourgh and company with a demonstration of her nimbleness, walking about on her hands and finally supporting her weight on one finger, Lady Catherine observes to Darcy:

“Miss Bennet would make a fine showing of Leopard’s Claw if she practiced more, and could have the advantage of a Japanese master.  She has a very good notion of fingering.”

Darcy’s response:

“That she does.”

Ahem…cough, cough…Jane Austen would blush.

Let’s not forget Elizabeth’s younger sisters, the boy crazy Lydia and her easily influenced sister Kitty.  When the local militia regiment decamps from the area, they are disconsolate, Lydia whining that:

Only think what a miserable summer else we shall have!  With hardly any balls to be had in Meryton!”

To which Elizabeth cannot refrain from thinking:

“Yes…a summer with so few balls would be miserable indeed for a girl who thinks of little else.”

Anyway, I think you see where I’m going.  Smith has managed to channel Austen’s wit and brand it with his own (somewhat less delicate) sense of humour.

He also manages to change the essential character of Elizabeth’s relationship with lady Catherine.  In the original, lady Catherine looks down on the Bennetts as lower class and Elizabeth specifically as not worthy of her nephew’s attentions due to her diminished social status.  In this version, that is coupled with her disdain for Elizabeth’s training, shunning her Chinese training in the Shaolin ways as inferior to that of the Japanese, whose ninjitsu arts she is heavily influenced by.  She eventually goes so far as to sick her house ninjas on Elizabeth in a desperate attempt to foil their eventual union.

All in all this revised imagining of a perennial classic works, spicing up the original tale of romance with a healthy dose of both horror and the absurd, and (I would think) attracts a new audience that would likely never be exposed to the original without the addition of those horrific elements.  It’s definitely worth a read, and with the addition of both a prequel and sequel by the equally talented Steve Hockensmith, there’s plenty more for the reader to enjoy.

 

 

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls-Steve Hockensmith

“Wishful thinking is a sin all England stands guilty of today, your fool of a father included.  We told ourselves our long nightmare was over, that a new day had dawned.  Alas, that was the real dream.”  ~Mr. Bennett.

And thus begins, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls (Steve Hockensmith: copyright © 2010 Quirk Books), a story of Regency England facing  a threat it had thought long since past.  In polite society, one does not talk of the scourge, and if necessary, refers to them as “the Unmentionables“.  Less polite society calls them “the Dreadfuls” and if one loses one’s propriety altogether, “Zombies!”

And propriety is under siege in this novel, as respectable society tries (and fails) to go about business as usual, ignoring the threat that has literally come upon their doorsteps.

Dawn of the Dreadfuls was written as a prequel to Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, itself a mash-up of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, chronicling the events that led to the Bennett sisters becoming the undead killing machines of Smith’s novel.  It begins with a funeral (quite apt) and ends with a ballroom dance being crashed by some uninvited (and undead) guests.  Along the way we are introduced to the Bennett family, a family of more status than means.  While Mrs. Bennett seeks an amicable union for her daughters so as to assure a future of comfort and sensibility, Mr. Bennett curses himself for both not having sons and neglecting his daughters martial education.

The daughters themselves are a curious bunch. 

Jane, the eldest, is a demure portrait in modesty (so much so that you need use both words to describe her), yet equipped with a quick wit and an even quicker katana.  She’s the model of civility in such an age, yet  not above doing whatever needs to be done in pursuit of the greater good, whether allowing herself to be courted by an awful English dandy to satisfy her mother, or lopping the head of any dreadful to satisfy her father.  Elizabeth, our protagonist, is much less demure, possibly a quicker wit, and  has a much more realistic view of the world and people around her.  She’s also less mindful of modesty and more willing to ascribe to the axiom that life is, “nasty, brutish and short.”  Unless you strike first.  Mary, the self-absorbed bookworm, lost in her desire to show everyone up, whatever the issue, and finally Lydia and Kitty, too girls with nothing but air between their ears, yet natural skill with implements of death.

You can’t have a family of women in such a novel without a bevy of possible suitors, and Dawn of the Dreadfuls is chock full of them.  Remember, this is pre-Darcy, and Netherfield Park was not yet to be occupied by the Bingsley’s. No, in this prequel Netherfield is the domain of Lord Lumpley, a libertine of the worst sort, whose desperate pursuit of wine and women rules all his actions, and in this case, the object of his pursuit is Jane.  Such a beauty cannot only be the desire of one chunky lord, and his nemesis arrives in the form of Lt. Tindall, charged with protecting the small hamlet of Meryton from the recently unearthed.  He’s the model of a soldier, brave and talented, yet hidebound by the social convention that women are delicate flowers and hobbled by a regiment of recent inductees who barely know one end of a musket from the other. Nevertheless he knows how to put down a dreadful and learns to recognize that convention is all fine and good, ’til it stands between you and continuing life.

Of course, this novel is primarily about Elizabeth Bennett, and while she is cynical of men as a gender, her views are only enhanced by the vices exhibited by the two men in her life.  The first is the seemingly flawless master Hawksworth, an expert of the martial arts and belonging to an order that once put the dreadfuls in their place.  While demonstrating all the physical ability and military talent to deal with the threat, over time Hawksworth’s fatal flaw becomes apparent, both to the reader and Ms. Bennett.  His counterpart is the intellectually superior yet emotionally stunted  Dr. Kekilpenny, a man who would rather play around in his makeshift laboratory trying to rehabilitate the dreadfuls into proper English gentlemen than stand up and fight.  His bravery is obvious, but it’s born of obliviousness.

So, the scene is set, the characters have their places, and the reader is more than likely to be amused and enthralled by this surprisingly entertaining period piece.  Hockensmith manages to capture much of the subtle humour and most of the style  of Austen’s writing.  When talking of Mrs. Bennett’s personality, he inserts such thoughts as, “As always, she found facts antithetical to good conversation.” (pp. 142)  When writing of lord Lumpley’s excesses, such lines as:

“You and I must return to Netherfield at once Ms. Bennett.  Balls don’t throw themselves, you know, and I’m certain you will prove yourself ever so helpful with mine.” (pp. 180)

leap out at the reader and elicit a good chuckle. 

But it’s not all chuckles and wit.  If you’re looking for horror and mayhem, or simply relief from the boredom that comes from sense and sensibility in a time of polite society and debutante’s balls, then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a must read.  Especially since Hockensmith has been commissioned to bookend Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with both this prequel and the forthcoming sequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, leaping off shelves to feast on the brains of horror readers March 22 of this year.