Fiction: “Dawn of the Dreadfuls” by Steve Hockensmith

Over a month ago, I responded to Quirk Publishing’s call – they were “offering bloggers a first look” at the prequel to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. When I saw the post on Facebook, I was riding pretty high on the comment left me by Charles Ardai, the creator of the Hard Case Crime imprint. I felt that things were finally looking up for ol’ Liz Lemon Alaina. I said to myself (and out loud, because that’s how I roll), “Holy crap, that’s awesome, I want one!”, immediately emailed the lovely people at Quirk, and two weeks, later, I got a copy.

link to Dawn of the Dreadfuls on Quirk Classics

What a lovely sight to see in the mail. I immediately tore into it.

The story takes place approximately four years before PPZ (Mary is 14, and she is approximately 18 in the original). We open at a funeral for a local man, which quickly gets interrupted as the local (dead) man starts to sit up in his coffin. Mr. Bennet takes the reins of the situation and asks for Jane and Elizabeth’s assistance in killing the dreadful.

This leads to Mr. Bennet training his girls in the ancient art of zombie warfare:

“I built this dojo — this temple of the deadly arts — not just for myself … I built it for you. My children. So that you, too, would be schooled in the Shaolin way. Now, far too belatedly, we begin your training.” [29]

There are new characters in this entry: the Baron Lumpley, Jane’s first suitor. He does not compare to Mr. Bingley in the slightest. Lumpley is fat, pompous, arrogant, selfish, conceited, and kind of hilarious. There is also Capt. Cannon, commander of the troops newly arrived to Meryton (but not Lydia and Kitty’s precious soldiers of the future). Sadly for Capt. Cannon, he had all of his limbs torn off in the Troubles, so now he has two soldiers act as his Limbs. (He actually calls them “Limbs.”) We also meet Dr. Keckilpenny, a doctor who attempts to rehabilitate dreadfuls back into proper English society; and Geoffrey Hawksmith, the Master sent by Mr. Bennet to tutor the girls.

What I enjoyed about DOD is the way the author showed Mr. Bennet’s doubt. He is wrestling with many things: needing to train his daughters as he had pledged to during the Troubles, but then reneged (along with almost all other Englishmen) when it appeared the Troubles weren’t going to resurface (heh); needing to see his daughters married to respectable families (well, maybe that’s more Mrs. Bennet, but the point will stand in four years); and sending his daughters off to a very bloody war night after night. I think Mr. Hockensmith was able to touch on this emotional self-war without being too preachy. I mean, I come from a Buffy background, and this reminded me of the relationship between Buffy & Giles – Giles knows that Buffy is going to die: he sends her out night after night to kill vampires, but he absolutely hates doing it, and if he could, he would trade places with her to save her life (until Buffy finds out and punches him unconscious. But theirs is a complicated [platonic] love).

To me, there weren’t as many scenes of ‘ultra-violent zombie mayhem’ in this iteration as there were in PPZ. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – in PPZ, the girls were full-fledged warriors, and part of the awesomeness was derived from the fact that these prim and proper girls were able to gut a zombie in less than a minute. Here, they are still learning (I am reminded of my sister proclaiming the same thing when I was teaching her to drive: “I’m learning!”), so while there are scenes of violence, it’s not as violent as we may be led to expect.

But overall, I felt that Dawn of the Dreadfuls didn’t quite match up to the awesomeness of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. And I’ve taken two weeks, trying to figure it out.  And look, that doesn’t mean I didn’t love it – I did.  It just wasn’t as awesome, in my head, as PPZ was.  But why?  Is it because my love for PPZ was so high that anything else would pale in comparison? Was it that DOD read as really good, very polished fanfiction? I mean, the same could be said for PPZ – taking the characters of a very popular novel and having them interact with other characters in interesting ways with a bit of wish-fulfillment thrown in (in this case, zombies).

And I finally figured it out: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is Ocean’s Twelve. Now that may seem as harsh words to some people, but hear me out. I love Ocean’s Eleven. My friend Kerri and I can recite parts of it, and do so, regularly. Ocean’s Eleven, in itself, is a reincarnation of the Rat Pack movie of the same name, but it made it better, and slicker, with more electromagnetic pulses. Here’s how much I love Ocean’s Eleven: when it came out in 2001, I was a freshman in college. Franklin Pierce University College got a copy of the film for Spring Fling. My friends all went to this raging party thrown at one of the towers, and I was going to go with them, but I watched Ocean’s Eleven instead. Now that’s love.

So when Ocean’s Twelve came out, I was excited again. Woo hoo! Danny and Rusty, together again! Now in Europe! And I saw it, and I bought the DVD, and it was good. It wasn’t great, but it’s something that I will still pop into the DVD player when I feel like it.

My analogy:
Ocean’s Eleven (1961) = Pride and Prejudice
Ocean’s Eleven (2001) = PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (where the electromagnetic pulse = zombies)
Ocean’s Twelve = Dawn of the Dreadfuls (where Tess masquerading as Julia Roberts is Mr. Smith. Once you read the book, you’ll find out why that’s funny.)

I enjoyed Dawn of the Dreadfuls very much. I give it 3.5 stars, which is high praise for me – my readers know that if one of my favorite books of all time rates 2.5 stars, 3.5 is awesome. The fact that the Bennet girls have governesses in this book (only for a couple of chapters, but still) isn’t going to keep me from reading it again further on up the road (in Pride and Prejudice, the girls never had a governess. In PPZ, the girls never had ninjas. I’m not sure if in the PPZ-verse that means that while the girls never had ninjas, they can have governesses. Not sure how that works.) I always had a smile on my face while I was reading this book, and recommend that everyone who read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES give this a shot.

However: now I’m waiting for Ocean’s Thirteen, where the Bennet girls travel to China to continue their studies. How long until that comes out?

Thank you, Quirk, for this marvelous opportunity. And now, I am pleased to offer my fabulous readers a chance to receive fabulous prizes, and I am not being sarcastic or making false promises for the first time ever! (disclaimer: I offer these by proxy, and in offering I in no way guarantee actual winning of said prizes.)  ANYWAY. The following link will send you to a public message board over on Quirk Classics, and if you so desire to comment where you read the review, you will be automatically entered to win one of 50 Quirk Classics Prize Packs that I will now describe:

  • An advance copy of Pride and Prejducie and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
  • Audio Books of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
  • A password redeemable online for sample audio chapters of Dawn of the Dreadfuls
  • An awesome Dawn of the Dreadfuls poster [I can attest to this: the poster is quite awesome]
  • A Pride and Prejudice and Zombies journal
  • A box set of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies postcards

When you comment, please use the following link: https://thtswhatsheread.wordpress.com/.

ETA: Hi.  I’m an idiot.  Here’s the link to enter for the prize pack.

Good luck, and — I don’t say this enough — thank you for reading.

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