By Mike Griffiths
Steve Hockensmith. Dawn Of The Dreadfuls. Quirk Books (2010). USD $12.95. ISBN-13: 978-1594744549.
Dawn of the Dreadfuls is the prequel to the very-well-received Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies, which was mostly writing by Jane Austin with a splattering of zombies added later by Seth Grahme Smith. Yes, Hockensmith does still base the majority of his main characters on those created by Austin, but unlike Smith, the story is completely his own.
The tale revolves around a younger Elizabeth and her sisters. The author does a good job bringing out their personalities. Other colourful characters are introduced, such as Master Hawksworth, the young and handsome martial artist, who attempts to hide his admiration for Lizzy behind rigorous exercises. Lizzy has another admirer in the person of the eccentric Dr. Keckilpenny, who feels that studying the behaviour of zombies will turn out to be more useful than simply slaying them.
Lizzy is not the only woman that men have eyes for. The obese and quite foul Lord Lumpley is chasing her older sister, Jane, while even Mrs. Bennet suffers the attentions of the limbless Captain Cannon.
Despite the social dances and Victorian flirtations, Dawn Of The Dreadfuls is packed with some serious action and carries a strong plot. It is a good read, far superior to Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies. The novel that spawned the mashup-genre craze interjected zombies in a sparse, haphazard manner into Austen’s world. Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a story written about the zombie plague that just happens to use preexisting characters.
This gives it a more honest feel, with real characters suddenly afflicted with the impossible and their attempts to deal with this situation. The characters are well-developed and, unlike many zombie books that focus on the horror of the situation and hope that it will push their protagonists through the story, this is a character-driven tale, which allows the reader to explore the girls’ reactions to the zombie plague.
Another plus the book has to offer is a slow-mounting tension that builds into a powerful climax. The level of danger and potential hopelessness competes with standard horror fare and works well.
Downsides of the book could include several instances of easy outs where the characters are saved too conveniently – too much deux ex machina. Also, some of the gags and humour peppering the story are a bit over the top. The doctor is particularly goofy, Hawksworth is a bit too talented for an eighteen-year-old, and Lumpley is completely disgusting. Still, overkill is what comedies are made of and this book is a comedy first and a horror book second.
Hockensmith outdoes his predecessor. Between Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies and Dawn of the Dreadfuls, Dawn is a far-better read, truer to the zombie theme, and more like a horror book in general. If you like clever twists and odd concepts, pick up Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies for a lark. If you like good horror tales or enjoy zombie stories with a bit of dark comedy, I would recommend Dawn of the Dreadfuls.
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