Friday, 21 May 2010

‘Dawn of the Dreadfuls’ – Steve Hockensmith (Quirk Classics)


It is a truth universally acknowledged on this blog, that a Graeme in possession of a good zombie book must be in want of more good zombie books to read. Don’t even try and argue with this point, you will fail. Regular visitors to the blog will already know that my obsession with the walking dead is only slightly healthier than said zombies single minded quest to devour fresh brains. That’s just the way that things are around here :o)
Being a zombie fan inevitably lends some bias to the books that I talk about on the blog, that’s just the way that it goes as well. I have turned up some real gems though and one of these was Seth Grahame-Smith’s ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, an extremely funny retelling of just how Jane Austen’s classic tale would have panned out had it taken place in the middle of a zombie uprising. True love will always find a way, no matter what is tearing its way out of the ground to devour you...
I didn’t see where things could go after ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ ended until a trip into Waterstones showed me the way. If you can’t go any further forwards with a narrative then why not take a couple of big steps back and fill in the gaps? That’s what ‘Dawn of the Dreadfuls’ is all about and, despite a couple of fairly major issues, it’s not a bad read at all...

Four years before Elizabeth Bennett first met Mr Darcy, for the first time, the Bennett sisters were the very picture of respectability, living a life of leisure and idly speculating upon whom they might marry. That was until the unfortunate incident at the funeral...
Now the dead are walking and the Bennett sisters must adapt to this new world if they are to stand any chance of surviving at all. The zombie onslaught raises further questions for Elizabeth however. Master Hawksworth teaches the ‘Deadly Arts’ to the sisters and firmly believes that the only good zombie is a dead one. Dr. Keckilpenny is of a different opinion however, his belief is that advances in science can be used to educate the living dead to live in harmony with those who are still human. Both men harbour feelings for Elizabeth, will she choose either of them or will all three of them become the main courses of a zombie banquet...? Only time and a very sharp sword will tell...

‘Dawn of the Dreadfuls’ finds itself at a bit of a disadvantage right from the start. Well, I say ‘finds’ but the approach the book takes means that it’s more of a case of ‘places itself intentionally...’
‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ was a clever (if slightly immature but I’m cool with that) riff on the original text that had the full weight of Austen’s classic behind it. This meant that not only did you get a hefty dose of zombies and ninjas but you also got Austen’s prose, humour and commentary. The result was the best of both worlds, a new take on an old classic that was a lot of fun to read for both fans of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and those who had never read the book at all.

‘Dawn of the Dreadfuls’ takes a step back from ‘Pride and Prejudice’, preferring to base itself entirely around Seth Grahame-Smith’s version. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but what does happen is that Austen’s input is lost almost entirely. While you still get the sense of homage being paid the book itself comes across as a lot weaker for Austen’s words not being in it. It’s unavoidable really as I’m guessing that there was no Austen book for ‘Dawn’ to be based upon (having never read anything by Austen I’m happy to be proved wrong on this score!) so Hockensmith had to focus more on what Grahame-Smith did instead. The end result though is something that comes across as a rip off of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ rather than something that plays with the original book and comes up with something new... You can see what it’s trying to do, in terms of building upon the success of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’, but for me it fell some way short on this score...

That’s not to say that ‘Dawn of the Dreadfuls’ wasn’t an entertaining read though. If you’re a fan of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ then you’ll find a lot to entertain you here with the same characters going up against the zombie threat whilst trying to work their way through various romantic entanglements. If you’re a fan of zombie films then you’ll also find a few nods to some classics... Hockensmith does well to stay true to the trail originally blazed by Seth Grahame-Smith while injecting his own brand of humour into the proceedings and stamping his own mark on the characters. You may have seen them all before but Hockensmith does make them his own.

The story itself is worth following as well, just to see how everything all ties together by the end as well as wending your way through the intricate relationships between the aristocracy and the gentry of the countryside. And if that wasn’t enough, the zombies are not only out in force but are regularly decapitated in all the best ways! ‘Dawn’ may be a paler imitation of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ but you can’t complain really... :o)

Like I said, ‘Dawn of the Dreadfuls’ doesn’t really stand up to comparison with it’s predecessor and maybe there’s a lesson to be learnt here for Quirk Classics in terms of quitting while you’re ahead. On it’s own though, ‘Dawn’ is an entertaining read that any zombie fan should seriously think about picking up.

Eight out of Ten

1 comment:

mis(h)takes said...

I haven't had the chance to read PPD yet but I did read Dawn and really loved it. I thought it was funny. I did get a chance to read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and found myself a little lost in the writing because I believe the writer chose to stay pretty true to Austen's original work.

I haven't read anything by Austen yet but I do that I had a tough time getting through Sea Monsters. But when I closed the book I still found myself liking the overall story - the true version and the quirky monster one too =)

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed DoD despite the quirks you had with it.