“Quirk Classics” Have been riding the crest of quirky rewrite wave, since their first release “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” which with it’s cut and paste approach, brought an interesting twist to the classic Jane Austin novel, sparking a whole heap of imitators in its wake, in much like the “Twilight” saga causing the sudden boom in the paranormal romance genre. Despite this Quirk Classics have managed to stay at the forefront of this mash up craze, perfecting the method with their second and much stronger release “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” which proved to be a much stronger release thanks largely to it’s 70 / 30 mix of new material with original material, which had proved such a breaking point for most readers of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” with so much of the new material looking clumsy pasted into place and stretching the joke dangerously thin.
It would be a lie if I said that I wasn’t surprised that the third release from “Quirk Classics” is infact not another literacy mash up, but instead a prequel to “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, as we meet the Bennet sisters again, who we find far from being the capable zombie slaying warriors, they were the first time we met them, as when we join the sisters, England is still free from the zombie plague, having been years since the original war waged against the dreadfuls, making it a world much closer to the one created by Austin originally. Still it is a peacefulness which soon to be shattered, when the recently deceased body of Mr. Ford suddenly sits up in his coffin, as it seems that the dead have begun to rise once more.
I was unsure whether a prequel would actually work, but here it actually works, seeing how the original novel suffered from numerous plot holes, which the cut paste method failed to accommodate, as it fought to keep as true as it could to the source novel, meaning that we learnt hardly anything about how the sisters became the zombie slaying warriors which they are when we first meet them, with most of the information we were given, being in the form of the numerous references to training regimes mentions in conversation by the sisters. Thankfully it is these same plot holes which Hockensmith, appears to have set out to fill in as we finally witness their early training in the “Deadly Arts”, with “Master Hawksworth” a man who might have more than a few secrets of his own, making this latest volume, almost an essential read before readers new to the series attempt the original novel, which I now feel might work slightly better than before, now this alternative world has been more properly explored and given the time to flesh out the various ideas which were only touched upon in the original book.
It might be slightly unfair comparing this latest release to the two previous quirk classic releases especially, seeing how writer Steve Hockensmith does not have to work out a way of working his new material into the classic text, still despite not having such restrictions forced upon him, Hockensmith not only manages to stay true to the original characters of the source novel as well as their rewrites which they received in the original quirk classics novel, but also introduces several new characters of his own creation, including the limbless “Corporal Cannon” who is moved around via wheelbarrow by his always present personal guard, with one to represent each missing limb. Still the most interesting character for myself I found to be the eccentric “Doctor Keckilpenny” whose appearance almost screams homage, with his attempts to humanise his pet zombie “Mr. Smith” ideas all too familiar to those explored in George A. Romero’s “Day of the Dead” (1985), much like his attempt to disguise himself as a dreadful, which I couldn’t help but think of “Shaun of the Dead” (2004). Still these scenes along with the various zombie attacks scenes, which are written in a gleeful gore soaked prose, proving that Hockensmith not only has a way of writing action well, but is also clearly a zombie lover aswell.
This book is also really a first venture into the horror genre, for Hockensmith having been known more at this point for his “Homes on the Range” series, which follow two cowboy brothers and wannabe detectives using methods of their hero “Sherlock Holmes. Still after reading this first shot at the genre, I would like to see him attempt it again, especially as he finally has given many of us what we wanted with the original novel, a regency set zombie story and something no doubt that original author Seth Grahame-Smith could have given us the first time around, had he not be wanting to stick to the source material so closely, while at the same time Hockensmith also manages to bring a Terry Pratchett Esq. style humour to the proceedings with numerous scenes which left me a goofy grin on my face, reminding me once more that the quirk classics series is essentially about having fun with a classic story and readers approaching this latest entry in the series with this mind frame shouldn’t hopefully not be disappointed.
All in all "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn Of The Dreadfuls" makes for a fun read and while fans of the original might be able to predict, how it is going to end, especially in regard to characters which don't appear in the original novel, it still doesn't prevent it from being any less fun, while becoming an essential starting point for anyone who is yet to discover the "Quirk Classics" series, which is currently set to finally move away from the works of Austin, with thier next title "Android Karenina" set to instead change thier focus onto the work of Tolstoy, as the author of "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" Ben H. Winters, attempts to combine the classic novel with sci-fi and steampunk, which personally I can't wait to see.